Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home again, home again

Well, we made it back to Champaign. I think all total we spent 37 hours in the car. But, it was worth it. I still think I like driving better than flying; I was much less stressed out. And, in the future we can cut a lot of time off by taking more direct routes. We took a major detour this time to go to Abilene. My friend Emerald had a baby in September, so all of us Fat Tuesday girls (minus Kalyn---we missed you!) drove to Abilene to throw a little mini-shower for Em and baby Lily. So, it was Em's baby shower, but it was at her house and she made all the food. Ha! Carolyn joked that we should have gotten Em a hostess gift.

Look at this little cutie! I'm in love. She is such a sweet, good-natured baby.


Darby and I picked out some little footie pajamas for her. The next day, Em sent me a picture of Lily wearing them in the snow.

It was so fun to see all of the other girls, too. I was only able to stay for a little while, but I'm thankful for the time I had. After the shower, I met my friend Laura for a short chat. We've talked on the phone a lot since I've moved here, but we haven't seen each other at all. It was great to sit and talk face-to-face. I wish Darby and I could make it out to Abilene more often; it's not really on the way to anywhere, though.

When we got home, we got to unload this:
Yes, I am now the proud owner of a piano! My parents let me have theirs since neither of them plays. We almost gave up on bringing it back when we found out it would be over $400 to get a hitch installed and rent a trailer. However, our preacher generously offered to let us use his minivan to haul it. In spite of everyone's doubts, it fit easily in the minivan and wasn't too terrible to load or unload (not that I lifted a finger!). I can't get over how nice it was of our preacher and his wife to let us drive their van to Texas and back. Plus, he shoveled our driveway while we were gone and helped us unload the piano. We're so grateful! Now I just have to practice. I'm pretty rusty.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

4 Christmases

Well, Darby and I are nearing the end of our whirlwind Christmas trip. We have had so much fun. I only wish we could stay longer. We left Champaign on Wednesday morning and drove to Searcy, Arkansas, for Christmas with Darby's mom's side of the family. We had the party at a beautiful building at Harding University. Here's the whole gang:
Thursday morning, we headed for Dallas. That was an exciting trip to say the least. It had rained over 8 inches in the previous 24 hours, and we had to drive through incredibly high, rushing water on the Interstate. And just to show I'm not exaggerating, here's a few pictures of the access road and surrounding area, just before we got to the water covering the Interstate:

They used this boat to rescue an older man from his house.

I feel sorry for the poor people who had their cars at this garage.

And did I mention that we were driving a borrowed minivan? Yeah . . . fun times. But, we made it to Dallas. And just in time. About an hour after we arrived, they shut down many of the highways because of ice.

We enjoyed Christmas with my mom's side of the family. Ate way too much, played some crazy games of Catch Phrase and quoted The Office incessantly.

Girl frousins

Boy frousins

On Friday evening, it was back to Waco for Christmas with Darby's immediate family, then Christmas with my immediate family on Saturday. Today we're relaxing before we attempt to load up my parent's piano in the minivan! (And when I say we, I mean Darby, my brother, Darby's dad, and my dad; I'll be staying out of the way with my mom.) Tomorrow, it's on to Abilene to see Em and her new baby Lily, and then back to the frigid North. Hopefully the drive back will be much less eventful than the drive down was.

Hope you all had very merry Christmases!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Indianapolis

Darby and I started the tradition last year of going on a little trip to celebrate the end of the fall semester, so we went to Indianapolis this past weekend. It was a lot of fun, despite the cold snowy/drizzly weather. We stayed in the Westin downtown. I had gotten a really good deal on the hotel through Hotwire. I must say, though, if I had paid full price for our room, I would have been pretty ticked. The lobby of the hotel was gorgeous, but the halls and rooms were a little dingy and dated. It looked like a sloppy renovation of a less nice hotel. Oh, well. The room was pretty big, and at least they had free Starbucks coffee.

On Saturday we went to the Indianapolis Art Museum (which was amazing and FREE!) and the zoo. They have a "Christmas at the Zoo" thing in December with all kinds of lights and music. There are a lot of indoor exhibits, so we still enjoyed ourselves despite the snow.

In the "Oceans" exhibit, they had a tank full of sharks you could pet. I was too scared (even though there were parents dangling their toddlers over the edge to touch the sharks), but Darby did it. Here he is in action. So brave! :)


Other than that, we just ate at a lot of good restaurants and relaxed. It was so nice to have a whole weekend to spend together since the past couple of months have been busy with schoolwork for Darby and holiday stuff for both of us.

One funny story from the weekend: Darby and I went straight to a restaurant when we got in Friday night around 7:30 p.m. The restaurant was nearly empty and they started cleaning up while we were eating. We thought it was kind of weird that a restaurant would close at 8, but just chalked it up to it being a small local place. When we got to our hotel, we noticed that the clock in our room was an hour ahead, so we changed it back. The next morning, we slept in, ate breakfast, and went to the art museum. We got there about 11:45. Several staff members told us about a tour that was starting at 1 p.m. We thought it was strange that they were pushing the tour so hard when it was only 11:45. Then, we get up to the floor where the tour is taking place, and it is just starting. At that moment, Darby and I both look at each other and realize that it is 1 p.m. Indiana is in a different time zone than Illinois. Duh! I'm not sure how we ignored all the signs, especially the clock in our room. I'm really glad we noticed before we left, so we didn't get a late check-out fee!

Friday, December 18, 2009

One week

I cannot believe Christmas is a week from today! December has gone by so fast. It seems there's never enough time to do all of the "Christmasy" things I want to do. Maybe this is why people start celebrating right after Halloween! I really wanted to bake sugar cookies this year because it was so fun last year. I don't think that's going to happen, though. Darby and I are going to Indianapolis this weekend (which I'm really excited about; it just doesn't leave much time for cookie baking). However, instead of thinking about all the things I didn't get to do, I'm going to be thankful for the things I did do.

  1. Admired the Christmas tree. Darby's really good about remembering to plug the lights in, so we look at it every morning and every night.
  2. Went to 3 Christmas parties—one for Darby's lab, one for our college group at church, and at our friends' house.
  3. Listened to Christmas music. Both Amazon and iTunes were offering free downloads of Christmas samplers, so I loaded up my iPod.
  4. Made Christmas treats—red velvet cupcakes with peppermint cream cheese frosting, M&M popcorn, and toffee. Toffee is something my mom makes every year, but I've never made it on my own (without her supervision). My first batch was pretty good but not as good as mom's. I'm making several more batches for gifts next week, so hopefully I'll improve. When my siblings and I were little, we loved "helping" mom, by spreading the chocolate on top of the toffee because when we were done we got to lick the spoon. Licking the spoon is still quite fun as an adult. :)
  5. Went to a Christmas church program. One of Darby's co-workers was singing in a Christmas program at Twin Cities Bible Church. It was a beautiful program and I love singing Christmas carols. I really wish our church foucsed on Christmas more. It's always so neat when I visit other churches. It's very difficult to focus on the reason for the season when it's barely mentioned at church, the one place you would think you would focus on it.

And, of course, I'm so excited about all of our family Christmas celebrations coming up. It will be kind of a whirlwind trip, but I'm so happy we're able to go and spend time with so many people. We are missing Christmas with my dad's side of the family. :( But, I think 4 Christmases and a baby shower is pretty good for 6 days (including 30 hours of driving)!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An early Christmas gift

My Christmas gift from Darby came in the mail on Friday! We had already decided that I could just open it up as soon as it came because I was so excited. It's one of those Shiatsu massage cushions. The two little balls at the bottom move up and down your back. It also has heat. It's awesome! On Friday night, I sat in it for like four 15-minute cycles. (That was a mistake; my back was really sore on Saturday. But that didn't stop me from sitting in it again!) I LOVE it!

I realized I never got around to posting more of my favorite ornaments. (And I'm sure you were all waiting on the edge of your seat.) Here they are:

This is the one we got in Santa Fe. I really debated about buying this once since it's not really "Christmasy," but I do think it's pretty and represents Santa Fe well.

One of my aunts (I can't remember which one!) gave this to us the year we got married. You can't tell from the picture but it's very shiny and glittery.

My "s'mornament" from my mom. I don't know why, but I think these guys are the cutest things ever.

Another one from Darby's mom. So cute! And it's very similar to our wedding cake topper. (It wasn't bears, but it was the groom holding the bride, and her veil was made of fabric.)

My grandpa made a lot of ornaments before he died (when I was 3). This is one he made specifically for me. It has a stocking with a "K" on it. I was trying to get more than just the stocking in the picture, so it's kind of hard to tell.

My mom gave us this Starbucks ornament because Darby and I have always loved going to Starbucks together.

Of course, no tree of mine would be complete without a Hello Kitty ornament. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Darby and I actually put our tree up several weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to taking pictures of it. I love our tree! I think it is the perfect combination of pretty and sentimental. Not all of our ornaments match, but we do have a predominantly red/silver theme. That will change as we get more and more personal ornaments, I'm sure. I'd much rather have ornaments that mean something than a tree that's perfectly coordinated anyway. Below are a couple of my favorite ornaments. I have a few more favorites, but Blogger is not letting me upload them right now. Grr... I'll try to post them in a separate post later.

Darby's mom gives us an ornament every year. I think she gave us this one the year we got engaged? We dressed up as the King and Queen of Hearts for Halloween (for several years), so this was so perfect for us.

Darby and I got this ornament in Niagara Falls on our honeymoon. I just thought it was so beautiful. That started the tradition of getting an ornament every place we go on vacation. Unfortunately, that has proved a little difficult. We have ornaments for Santa Fe and Springfield (vacation being a loose term!), but we didn't find one in Chicago or Nashville. I know we'll be back to Chicago again, but I might have to order a Nashville one online.

Monday, November 30, 2009

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving. Every time we go home, it is harder and harder to come back. Texas just feels like home. We always manage to squeeze in so much during our visits. This year included Thanksgiving lunch with Darby's extended family; going to see The Blind Side with John and Debby; shopping with my sister; Outburst with my family and Jeremy; dinner with Aunt Tere and cousin Corrie; a shower for my high school friend Krista; and decorating two Christmas trees, among other things. Here are just a few pictures from this weekend. I forgot my camera, so I had to rely on others' facebook pictures. I didn't get any of Thanksgiving at Darby's house. :( We can't wait to go back in just 3 weeks for Christmas!!

The fam after decorating our Christmas tree. My brother's in Uruguay, so we're all holding his picture. We missed him!!

My cousin Corrie. Isn't she precious? We were playing Pass the Pigs, and she was really into it.

My BFFs from junior high and high school. Me, Whitney, Krista, Jessica, Stephanie. We have so many silly, fun memories together. Hard to believe we're all grown-ups---getting married, getting master's degrees, moving far from home. We realized that this is the first time we've all been together since my wedding 2-1/2 years ago. Too long! We told Stephanie and Jessica they better get married soon so we have more excuses to get together. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The ABCs of Thanksgiving

I stole this idea from my sister's blog. I thought it was a fun way to think of all the things I'm thankful for, some silly and some serious. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!

Apple cider—I cannot believe I spent the first 23 years of my life without this drink. It is amazing.
Babies—I love teaching Cradle Roll at church. It's so fun to see how much the babies change from the time they enter at 5 or 6 months to the time they leave at 2 years.
Church—We would be completely lost here without Philo Road. Everyone was so nice and welcoming when we arrived. Our church is such a blessing in our lives.
Darby—Obviously, I am so, so thankful for Darby. He is my best friend, my teammate, my encourager. I can't imagine my life without him.
Evenings—One good thing about being out of school (even though I often miss it) is that my evenings are my own. I love having time to cook, scrapbook, read, or just veg if I want to.
Friends—I am so thankful for the friends I've made in Illinois. But I'm also extremely thankful for my friends from college. I miss them so much. Being away from them has made me realize even more how special those relationships are.
Grace—I am so glad God's love isn't dependent on anything I do. If it were, I'd be in trouble. :)
Hannah—My sister is awesome. She has so much energy and always makes me laugh. She's a wonderful teacher and cares so much for her students. I'm so happy to get to spend time with her this week.
In-laws—I have been blessed with great in-laws. They have really welcomed me into the family.
January 1--New Year's Day is my favorite day of the year. It's such a nice day to just relax and make plans for the upcoming year.
Kitchen—I am so grateful to have a fairly large kitchen with nice appliances where I can do all of the cooking I love.
Laughter—There's nothing better than laughing until my cheeks hurt with Darby, friends, family, anyone.
Matt—My brother is so funny and smart. He gets along great with everyone, but he can also be very introspective and thoughtful. He's studying abroad in Uruguay right now, and I can't wait for him to get back.
Naps—My Sunday afternoon nap is the highlight of my week.
Olives—My favorite Thanksgiving food. Every year, my mom gets me a can of whole black olives. :)
Parents—My mom and dad are so loving, generous, and fun. More importantly, they are both excellent Christian role models. I don't like living so far away with them, but it does make me really excited about the time we do get to spend together.
Quiet—I feel like this is a relatively "quiet" time of life for me. I'm not too busy and have plenty of time to relax and think. I'm trying to treasure this season since I know it won't last very long.
Reminiscing—I'm glad that I have so many happy memories from childhood, college, etc. Most phases of my life have been very good.
Sunshine—I've always loved the sun, but now that we live in a darker, rainier place, I appreciate it even more.
Travel—I'm grateful that Darby and I have had the opportunity to take several trips together and that we're able to go home and visit our families fairly often.
Uniqueness—I'm thankful that God created each of us with different abilities, talents, and personalities
Vacuum—I'm thankful for a husband that does the vacuuming. :)
Women's Bible study—I started going to a college women's Bible study on Monday nights this semester. It has been so great to get to know some of the other young women from church.
X-rays—I'm grateful that I haven't had any this year. (X is hard :) )
Young Marrieds—This group at our church meets once a month, and it's always a lot of fun.
Zero debt—I am very grateful to mine and Darby's parents for paying for our ACU education, so we could start our married life debt-free. And I'm incredibly grateful for Darby's TA position that pays for his tuition now.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Chicken, Three Meals

I am in full-on soup-making mode. The weather has been rainy and cold for most of the past two weeks (for most of the past two months, for that matter), which means soup sounds good every night.

Last night I made chicken chili for Darby and me. This has been a favorite of ours since I first made it two years ago. It is so easy. It takes a while because of the amount of time it simmers, but most of that time is hands-off. The recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken. I normally don't buy rotisserie chicken, but I think I might start doing it more often. Darby and I can get 3 meals plus leftovers and 3 cans of chicken broth from one $5 chicken. It's a pretty good deal. Now, roasting my own chicken would be even more economical, but I haven't gotten that brave yet. In case you're interested, below is the process I used to squeeze every last cent out of that chicken. That sounds weird.

For the first meal, eat whatever pieces of chicken you want plain. After eating, pick off all remaining meat and place in container. At this point, it can be frozen for 1–2 other meals (such as the chili below). We can get 2 casseroles from the leftover meat, if I keep a pretty low meat-to-other-ingredients ratio, which I usually do.

Place chicken carcass (along with skin and fatty pieces) in Crock-pot along with roughly chopped carrots, celery, and yellow onion, a few peeled garlic cloves, and spices such as bay leaves, sage, thyme, and peppercorns. Pour 1-1/2 to 2 qts. COLD water over ingredients. (For a small rotisserie chicken, I'd stick with 1-1/2 qts.) Cook on low at least 10 hours. Let cool slightly, then strain into large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator several hours; then, skim the fat off the top. Divide among 2–3 freezer bags, lay flat, and freeze. This should yield close to 6 cups broth, about 3-1/2 cans worth. It might not seem like a lot but considering you would just throw the chicken bones away anyway, it's not too bad. Plus, you can use the leafy parts of celery and the tops of carrots. Next time you're using those vegetables, toss the scraps in a freezer bag and save until you want to make broth. Not to mention, homemade broth is much healthier and far lower in sodium than canned, and you can bask in your self-sufficiency and resourcefulness for days. ;)

I let the broth cook while I was sleeping, and—although convenient—waking up to the smell of chicken broth is not that pleasant. Neither is straining the broth and discarding the carcass before breakfast. Just FYI :)

Now for the chili recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Smoky Chicken Chili
From Southern Living (I think?)

3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (I'm sure you could substitute boiled shredded chicken, but it wouldn't have as much flavor.)
2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2–3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chili-style diced tomatoes
2 cans beans (black, navy, or both), drained and rinsed
12-oz. beer (Any kind. If you are opposed to buying beer, you could probably substitute chicken broth, but again, it wouldn't be as flavorful.)
1 pkg. McCormick white chicken chili seasoning mix

Saute the peppers, onion, and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat about 8 mins. Stir in tomatoes, beans, beer, chicken, and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with shredded cheese.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Well, after an hour on the phone/Internet with Comcast yesterday, I was told that they would send someone out that day to "fix" our cable. We still have all of the channels. I was kind of doubtful that someone would come out Saturday because it was already 3 p.m. when I called. We'll see if anything happens this week. I am not calling again, though. They've had their chance.

On Friday I went grocery shopping after work. We needed milk, but the price was higher than I normally pay, so I decided to wait and try a different store. When I checked out, I got one of those coupons that sometimes prints with your receipt. (I love those; they're always such a surprise.) It was for a free gallon of milk! I looked at it and my jaw literally dropped in disbelief and excitement. I am a huge dork.

I brought in our Christmas decorations from the garage this weekend because I wanted to see if I had any Christmas cards leftover from years past (I did---3 different kinds!). Darby and I are going to put up our decorations next weekend or early next week since he'll be off for Thanksgiving. I'm so excited!! I've bought several gifts already, so I feel ahead of the game. I'm also very excited because I know what Darby's getting me for Christmas (he told me): a massaging seat cover (one that has the little balls in it)! I've wanted one of those for a long time, but I teased Darby that the only reason he's getting it is so he doesn't have to give me backrubs anymore. He admitted that was partially true. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Voicemail fail

Well, from the comments so far on my previous post, it sounds like I should call Comcast and hope that they still don't do anything about it. :)

I had a frustrating experience with voicemail today at work. I was trying to call an organization to follow up on a request I sent to them for permission to reprint their standards in a textbook. I get very nervous when I make phone calls, so I always have a script carefully prepared. I was transferred to voicemail, so I began:

"Hi, this is Kayla Hewitt with ______ _______. I am calling to follow up on the status of a permission request I sent in September. It was for the ______ standards to be printed in a textbook, [title of textbook], by . . . "

The machine cut me off and asked if I wanted to add to my message or re-record. I opted to re-record, as I wasn't sure exactly where I had left off. I decided to abridge for my second attempt:

"Hi, this is Kayla Hewitt with ______ _______. I am calling to follow up on the status of a permission request I sent in September. My phone number is xxx-xx . . . "

The machine cut me off again! This time I opted to add on since it was looking like I'd never be able to record a full message.

"Hi. I got cut off. My phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, and again my name is Kayla Hew. . ."

Cut off again! At this point I just gave up. I don't understand the point of voicemail if it's going to be that short. I understand that people don't want to listen to long messages, but wouldn't they like to know what you're calling about so they can gather the necessary information before calling you back? I sent an e-mail to the organization explaining what had happened (although the whole point of calling was because I hadn't received a response via e-mail). I felt like a huge idiot. It doesn't help that we have a community phone at work, so basically the whole office heard my 3 failed attempts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Confession

Ok, so you know how a few months ago I posted about getting rid of our cable? Well, that was only part of the story.

When the guy came to shut the cable off, he took the box, but he also had to go disconnect something from the pole. The pole is behind our fence and the fence is padlocked. Neither we nor the owners of the house have the key to the lock. (I'm not really sure how it got there, but we don't ever use that gate anyway.) The guy who had set up the cable climbed over the fence to get to the pole. Well, this guy didn't want to do that. He said he was going to put a work order in and that it would probably be a couple of weeks before it got done, but he would go ahead and mark us down as disconnected.

That was in August, and we still have cable! We can't access OnDemand or the special cable TV guide, but we still have all of the cable channels. It's been awesome, but I'm starting to feel kind of bad about it. I mean, I know it wasn't our fault, but I still think we probably ought to tell Comcast. I didn't even consider this before the Mad Men season ended on Sunday. No way was I giving up cable before then! :)

What do you think—to tell or not to tell? I'm pretty sure I know the answer; I just need a shove in the right direction.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Darkness

I am rebelling against winter by refusing to wear my winter coat. I don't care that it is in the 30s at night. If I don't wear my coat, it isn't winter yet. Actually, we've been having some beautiful weather during the day lately—highs near 60 and sunny. Unfortunately, because of the time change, it is now dark by the time I get off work at 4:30. I hate it! Seriously, it messes with me. I have been trying and trying to come up with reasons to like the early darkness because otherwise I feel like I might go crazy long before March. I did come up with two:
  1. I don't have to feel bad about being lazy after work. I mean, it's dark anyway. Might as well just go to bed.
  2. It is light when I get up in the morning.

That is all I could think of. This is very depressing.

On a happier subject, it is now the holiday season! I know this because Starbucks has their Christmas drinks available. Starbucks is my official calendar. And three weeks from today I will be in Texas enjoying the SUNLIGHT! (And family and friends, but seriously, the sun might be the most important thing to me right now; if it's rainy, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


We had our Fall Festival at church last night and the college group room's theme was '60s and '70s. I didn't want to spend much money or time on our costumes, so I went to Wal-Mart hoping to find a couple of cheap tie-dyed shirts. Well, I found a lot of "60s-ish" girls' shirts, but I couldn't find anything for Darby. So I just got him an Afro wig. :) You can't see it in the picture, but it had a purple pick in it.

I didn't think the kids were really going to "get" our theme, but they seemed to enjoy it. We had a disco ball and were playing a '70s disco mix CD. Several of the kids started dancing. And one two-year-old wouldn't leave the room the whole night. She was mesmerized by the pattern the disco ball made on the walls. When her mom finally told her she had to leave, she said, "I'll be back. Don't stop the music." So cute!

Last year we had quite a few trick-or-treaters at our house, so I'm hoping we'll start seeing some in just a little bit. I love passing out candy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

25 Before 25

So it hit me the other day that on my next birthday I will be 25. I don't think that's old or anything, but it does seem strange to me that I'm in my mid-20s. Time seems to be going by so quickly. In December, it will have been 3 years since I graduated from ACU. 3 years! I've started feeling like I'm not really taking advantage of this time of my life. I won't have too many more years of married life without children (I hope!). And by "not too many," I mean 5 or 6, so don't get too excited. :) I don't want to look back at this time of my life and think, "I should have done this or that." (And I'm realizing that I probably won't say, "I wish I had watched more Toddlers and Tiaras.") So I decided to come up with a list of 25 goals to accomplish before I turn 25 (in a little under 8 months). Well, 25 was a little ambitious; I made it to 13. Anyone got any suggestions to fill out the last 12?
  1. Take a cooking class.
  2. Bake one new recipe from each of my cookbooks.
  3. Learn two new songs on the piano.
  4. Decide once and for all if/when I'm going back to school and what I will study.
  5. Read 5 books that I've owned for at least a year.
  6. Find a local charity to get involved with.
  7. Take another workout class.
  8. Start at least two more herbs.
  9. Visit St. Louis.
  10. Devise and stick to a housekeeping schedule.
  11. Have 3 "dinner parties" (with party defined as at least two other people besides me and Darby).
  12. Go camping/hiking.
  13. Try 2 new restaurants.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

This weekend, I was baby-sitting a friend of mine's daughter. She's a very spirited, very perceptive almost five-year-old.

We were playing with her stuffed animals. She was pretending to be the baby ladybug (a boy, for some reason), and I was the mommy ladybug. Here's how the conversation went:

Baby: (crying softly) I don't want to grow up because I don't want to leave you, Mommy.
Mommy: I'll always love you, though, even if you don't live with me.
Baby: No you won't.
Mommy: Yes I will. I'll always be your mommy.
Baby: But it will be different. I'll have a wife, and that's like a different type of mommy.

I was trying so hard to stifle my laughter. What do you say to that? I just hope Darby considers me a wife wife, and not a mommy/wife. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Current Obsession

I have found a new addiction in the world of frugality—free samples! At first, I kind of scoffed at this. I mean, can you actually save any money on little trial-size items? But, I think I have. Here is a partial list of the things I've gotten for free in the past few months:

  • Small boxes of Total (2), Honey Nut Cheerios, Fiber One (2), All-Bran
  • Fiber One granola bar
  • All-Bran drink mix (like Crystal Light)
  • Small bag of Bear Naked granola
  • Bounce dryer bar (full-size! for writing a review on Viewpoints)
  • Eos lip gloss (full-size)
  • Ziploc quart-size baggie
  • Several paper towels (the good, thick kind . . . not the generic stuff I'm used to)
  • Tide total care detergent
  • Tons of "feminine" products
  • Dove, Aveeno, and Pantene Pro-V shampoos and conditioners

There have been others that I'm forgetting, I'm sure. Anyway, it's so fun to see what's in the mailbox each day! And, I think all total I've probably saved at least $15, which isn't too bad, considering all I do is fill out a little online form. Plus, many of the samples come with high-value coupons, so that's even more money saved.

I only sign up for samples of stuff I would actually buy or use. Otherwise, it can get a little crazy; there's so much free stuff out there. My friend Jenn e-mails a list of freebies every Friday, and I find lots of deals on Hey, It's Free, Money Saving Mom, and Deal Seeking Mom. One note of caution: If you do sign up for freebies, it'd probably be wise to set up a separate e-mail account just to put on online forms. I did not do that, and I've noticed a big increase in the amount of Spam I get. Luckily, I use Gmail, which has a good Spam filter, so it's not too much of an issue.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Christian Education

I just finished reading The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. It is written by a journalism student at Brown who transferred to Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's university) for a semester to see what life at a Christian college is like. It's a thought-provoking and entertaining read. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in how non-Christians view Christians. The writer is not out to make fun of evangelical Christians; he does a good job of recounting his good and bad experiences. He really enjoys the sense of community at Liberty and the sincerity and kindness of his fellow students. However, ultimately he cannot get past what he considers the judgmental nature of Christians. He is especially dismayed by the overt homophobia that is displayed by almost everyone. That is a tough objection to contend with. I think treating all people, no matter what their beliefs or lifestyle, with respect and kindness is a step in the right direction. However, I think there will always be a problem when a religion that has moral absolutes meets a morally relativistic culture. It's a tough problem . . . one that Christians will have to do a lot more thinking about.

The most disturbing part of the book to me, though (as I am already familiar with the overt homophobia and sexism present in the Christian community) is the lack of academic rigor at Liberty. The author does point out that Liberty University is one of the most conservative Christian schools in the nation, which I appreciated. I don't want people to get the idea that all Christian schools are like that. Besides the fact that Liberty teaches some pretty indefensible "science" (namely, young-earth creationism), from what the author says, there is just a serious lack of critical thinking or questioning, skills that are central to a liberal arts education. For example, an examination in the course "History of Life," includes these true-or-false questions.

Evolution can be proven using the scientific method. (False)
Science is the only way to truly know truth about the world. (False)
Noah's Ark was large enough to carry various kinds of dinosaurs. (True)

Those are not true-or-false questions! The second one has some value (if it were worded better), but only as an essay question or discussion. I have no problem with matters of faith being taught at Christian universities . . . obviously, I took Bible classes at ACU. But matters of faith or speculation (such as the size of Noah's ark) cannot be presented as fact in an academic context. If someone wants to disagree, they have to be able to, as long as they can present a well-reasoned argument for their case. Only questions about the Bible that can be answered from the text itself should be posed as closed-ended test questions, in my opinion.

Anyway, when I wasn't busy being outraged, I really enjoyed the book. There are plenty of light-hearted moments, too. Like when the author doesn't know how he will be able to list the books of the New Testament in order for his test, and everyone is shocked he doesn't know "the song." It's fun to think about all the traditions that those of us who grew up in the church just take for granted.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Confused

All last week I kept thinking, "I need to remember to send Emerald a birthday card, I need to remember to send Emerald a birthday card." So, on Tuesday night, I sat down and made her a card. I sent it on Wednesday, hoping it would get to her by her birthday on Monday, Oct. 5. I was so glad that I remembered. I have this paranoia about forgetting people's birthdays.

Fast forward to last night, I was sitting on the couch looking at facebook. In the little section that tells which of your friends' birthdays are coming up, I see: John Pierce--Oct. 5. Then, it hit me. Em's birthday is March 5. Our freshman year of college, we had this little joke that everyone's birthday was either on the 5th or 20th because most of us were born on one of those days. So, somehow I got it in my head that Em's birthday was Oct. 5. I jumped up to call her, hoping she hadn't already gotten the card. Well, she had. She said, "I'm so glad you called. I wasn't sure what I should do. I thought, 'Should I call Kayla? Is she ok?'" We got a good laugh at it. I wish I had seen her expression when she opened that card. I told her not to expect anything in March. Only one card per year, even if it is 5 months early. :)

How early can Alzheimer's start?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fabulous Fall

For the past three years, I have done a post about how much I love fall in late September or early October. Why break from tradition, right?

We've had our first fallish weather this week, and I'm loving it! I love wearing jackets and my cute socks. (I still only wear patterned socks unless I am working out; I don't think I'll ever outgrow them.) I love eating soup and drinking cider and hot chocolate. I love pumpkin pie, caramel apples, and candy corn. I love getting out my fall decorations and being surprised by things I had forgotten I had. I love not waking up hot in the morning. I love feeling warm and cozy in my hooded sweatshirt. I love that new episodes of my favorite tv shows are on. I love that Christmas feels so much closer but not so close that you start getting sad about it being over.

Growing up, summer was my favorite season, mainly because my birthday is in the summer. But over the past few years, fall has definitely taken its place. Especially now that I'm not in school, summer just doesn't hold the same appeal. So, I'm going to soak up my 8 or so weeks of fall loveliness before winter rears its ugly head.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ok, I'm done.

Update: It's Sunday morning now, and I am feeling much better. I thought about deleting this post but decided against it because it is true and honest. I don't want to be all "sunshine and roses" on this blog if I'm not feeling that way. But now I'm off to teach my little babies at church. :)

Well, this little Illinois adventure has been great so far, but I think I'm through. I want to go "home." (Home being within driving distance of my parents' house and/or Abilene.) I actually surprised myself with how well I adjusted to living here, but lately it's been hard. Seeing everyone's updates on facebook about the ACU game makes me wish I was there, tailgating with the Westgate college group and wearing my purple and white. I wish I could see my sister's apartment in Dallas. I wish I could go back and visit the people I worked with at ACU and all of the people we knew from Westgate. I wish I could have seen my parents on my birthday (although I am happy I at least got to be with Darby's family that day.) And the hardest thing of all has been seeing pictures of my friend Em's new baby. I want to see her in person! I'm hoping to get to see her at Christmas, but I don't know if that's going to work out. Darby and I have so little time to see everyone we want to see.

Obviously, I am exaggerating a little. I do overall still really like it here, and I want Darby to finish his degree. And I guess I want to live with my husband. :) But it's hard sometimes. I just wish there was more time to spend with everyone at holidays. We have to cram so much in every time we go home. And it's too expensive to just fly home for a weekend here or there. Part of this rant is precipitated by the nearly $600 we are about to spend on plane tickets for Thanksgiving (that's to drive 3 hours to St. Louis and then fly to Dallas). To fly out of Champaign, Bloomington, or Peoria would be over $1,000. I'm ok with not having much time or not having much money, but not having either really stinks!

Sorry for the rant. I'm sure I'll feel better in a couple of days. And I am really happy that we're able to go home at all this Thanksgiving. Only 2 more months!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Oldies"

I recently switched from listening to NPR back to listening to my iPod on the way to work. NPR was making me too depressed and angry (I can get very impassioned about politics). I'll take my "news lite" from The Today Show any day. Anyway, I had forgotten how much I love my iPod. Mainly because I really don't like much new music. Almost all of the songs I have are from 1996 to 2004. The songs from when I was younger just bring back so many good and funny memories.

When I listen to Fuel, I think of the time that Hannah and I had a huge fight because I wanted to listen to that CD every day on the way to and from school. Two guys from church who rode home from school with us were just sitting in the back seat with these stunned looks on their faces. I don't think they had ever seen the way sisters fight. Now, of course, Hannah and I just laugh about it.

Or there's "Whenever, Wherever" by Shakira, which Jessica included on a mix CD she made for our group of friends when we graduated from high school. Accompanying the CD was an explanation of why she chose each song. That particular one said something like, "Just like this song says, I know that 'whenever, wherever we're meant to be together.' " I think she was only joking a little bit. We really were that sappy. I still love those girls.

Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill was one of the first CDs I ever owned (after Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, of course). Still when I sing along to "You Oughta Know," I sing our altered church van line: "I hope you're thinking of me when you suck on a sucker." The original is not nearly so benign; use your imagination. (This is also a prime example I want to remember when I'm tempted to tell my kids they shouldn't be listening to certain music. I listened to tons of songs that might not have been completely age-appropriate, but I turned out fine. I say, pick your battles.)

Almost every song I have, I can think of some story that goes along with it, usually involving silliness or melodrama. That just doesn't happen with current songs. I don't go on 15-hour van rides with dozens of other teenagers where all we have to do is make up dumb words to songs. (We turned "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys into a love song about a chocolate chip cookie . . . I have no idea.) I don't dress up with my friends and make up a music video for "Lady Marmalade." (I was Lil' Kim, like you couldn't guess!)

So while I appreciate some new music, it just doesn't make me happy like older music does. And I'm not talking old, classic music. Most of the stuff I liked was pretty cheesy, and I was never picky about genre. So what? I'm proudly admitting that I sing along at the top of my lungs to Boyz II Men, Garth Brooks, Ace of Base, The Offspring, and Shania Twain, sometimes one right after another. They may not be "good," but they sure are fun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Always, Sometimes, Never

Saw this on a few people's blogs and thought it was cute. I can't resist lists or talking about myself. :)

I always . . .
  • drink coffee in the morning.
  • finish a book if I start it.
  • take a nap on Sunday afternoon.
  • check my e-mail at least twice a day.
I sometimes . . .
  • wait until Darby's with me to get gas, so he'll have to pump it :)
  • eat chocolate chips straight from the bag, even when I'm not baking.
  • wonder if I should go back to school.
  • forget to bring my workout clothes to work and am secretly happy
I never . . .
  • forget to eat a meal.
  • stay up all night.
  • drink diet soda.
  • watch scary movies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica


The Office Season 6 starts tomorrow night!! I am so excited. I can't wait to pick up where we left off with Jim and Pam's storyline. They are by far my favorite television couple ever. Darby and I are so close to getting Season 5 on DVD. It came out a couple of weeks ago, but we decided to wait until we each received one more $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks. That way, we won't have to pay for much of it out of pocket. It was a good decision, but it's so hard to wait! I'm sure once we get it, we will go through the whole season and all of the deleted scenes in a week or less. That's our style.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Routine

This week, we went back to our normal schedule at work (8 to 4:30, rather than 7 to 3), which means I'm back to my normal morning routine: I get up and take a shower while Darby makes the coffee; I fix my cereal, and Darby pours my coffee (I'm a little spoiled). We sit on the couch and watch the last 15 minutes of Saved by the Bell and the first 15 minutes of the Today Show while we eat. (I usually also check my e-mail, facebook, etc. What can I say? I'm a multi-tasker.)

I didn't realize just how much I had missed that routine until we started doing it again. During the summer, my mornings were so depressing. I'd get up, get ready very quietly, quickly eat my breakfast, and take my coffee to go. Right before I left, I'd wake Darby up, so we barely got to say good morning before I was out the door (usually running late).

Now, I love my mornings. I get just enough news that I know generally what's going on in the world, but not so much that I start getting angry and/or depressed. And I get to spend a little time with Darby. The only downside is that, since I drink my coffee at home now, I don't get to use my super-cute Hello Kitty thermos that Darby made (yes, made) for me last Christmas.

See you next summer, HK!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

We had so much fun with my parents this weekend. I feel like a real adult having my parents come visit me at my own house. (Of course, I still enjoy the perks of being a kid, like having my parents pay for meals and take me shopping for clothes!)

On Saturday, we drove to Springfield to see some of the Abraham Lincoln sites. We went to Lincon's house, his law office, his tomb, and the Lincoln museum. All were very neat (except the law office, which was pretty much ruined by a hilariously clueless tour guide).

Of course, we enjoyed yummy food. We ate at Dos Reales and Za's, and I cooked grilled chicken skewers and chicken taquitos and made an ice cream pie (which involves layering bananas, hot fudge, and three types of ice cream in an Oreo crust; I used low-fat and fat-free ice cream, so it was healthy, right?)

The rest of the time was spent talking, playing games, and napping. I feel very blessed to have the parents I have. I miss them a lot, and I'm so glad they are willing to come up and visit regularly. Darby and I are counting down the days until we get to see both of our families at Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Blah Blog

Sorry for my kind of blah blog lately. I have not been inspired to post. And I'm sure you all just wait on the edge of your seats for my next post. ;) I've thought about posting several times in the past week, but then decided against it, either because what I had in mind was too boring or short. Well, no greater inspiration hit, so without further ado, here are all the things I've mentally composed a blog about:
  • My enjoyment of food is inversely proportional to the time I spend preparing it. I still love to cook, but things always taste better to me as leftovers. It's very strange . . .
  • I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenager self not to worry so much. That in just a few short years I'll feel like high school was so long ago, that I won't remember the situations I found so embarrassing at the time. I think that's got to be one of the most challenging things about being a parent—knowing that your kid could be saved a lot of heartache if he/she would just realize that most of their day-to-day worries don't matter in the long run, but also knowing that there's no way you can convince them of that at the time. It also makes me think: When I'm 40, what will I wish I could have told myself now?
  • I do not buy into the "Just do a little bit each day" theory of housework. I'd rather do nothing for two (okay, three) weeks, then spend several hours one night cleaning and lamenting how I always let things get so bad. That way, the majority of my days are spent having fun and only one day is completely miserable, rather than all the days just being so-so.
  • I have been very amused by this hoopla surrounding the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia. (He wrote a thesis for Regent University 20 years ago that, among other things, lists feminism as one of the greatest enemies of the American family.) I could go on and on about frustrating it is to try to convince people that Christians aren't completely out of touch in light of comments like these, but that's a topic for another blog post (one I am too afraid to write lest I provoke controversy; I have become tamer in my old age). However, the thing that amused me is that a commentator on NPR seized on the candidate's belief in "covenant marriage." She asked her guest (a Richmond, VA, reporter), "What does that mean?" He said, "It is 'I really do' marriage. It's where a couple agrees beforehand to take extraordinary measures to avoid divorce if their marriage hits rocky shoals." Both the commentator and the reporter seemed incredulous at this notion. I don't know if they thought covenant marriage was some kind of cult or what. It sounds like just "marriage" to me. Out of all the things that were supposedly written in that thesis, it is sad to me that a belief in marriage for life was singled out as especially weird.

Next week, I should have a more interesting update. My mom and dad are coming into town for the weekend. Yippee!

Friday, August 28, 2009

School Lunches

All the advertisements and articles lately about back-to-school, particularly stocking up for school lunches, has gotten me feeling nostalgic for the foods of my childhood. I still pack a lunch everyday, but I've graduated to leftovers or sandwiches and fruit or yogurt. No expensive single-serving snacks for me. Sigh. Here were some of my favorites:
  • Dunk-a-roos. Little graham cracker sticks with a tub of chocolate frosting to dip them in. What's not to like?
  • Goldfish. A girl at work brought Goldfish for lunch the other day, and it just took me back. Goldfish = childhood.
  • Chewy Chips Ahoy. Mmmm. The softest packaged cookies ever. If you heat them in the microwave a few seconds they're even better.
  • Juice boxes. Why, oh why, did I have to grow up and find out that most fruit juices are pure sugar and actually not very good for you?
  • Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies. These were actually more of a high-school obsession, but I'm counting them because I still often packed a lunch in high school. They are more like fudge than a brownie. And at Christmas time, they come in the shape of Christmas trees.
Then there are those foods that I look back on and think, "How could I eat that?" For example:
  • Lunchables. All of them. These are vile, but the worst offenders are the pizza ones. Sickeningly sweet sauce and rubbery cheese product shreds on top of a communion wafer? No thanks. Also, they are a huge waste of money. You could buy a box of Ritz crackers, a package of cold cuts, and a package of sliced cheese and make about 10 Lunchables for under $10. Not to mention, it would taste about a thousand times better. But as a kid I loved these! Lunchables has some kind of amazing marketing strategy. I don't think Mom let me have these all the time (smart woman), but I do remember being so happy when I got them.
  • Handi-Snacks Cheese and Crackers. These are similar in theory to Dunk-a-Roos, but much grosser. Remember the cardboard breadsticks that you dip in the alarmingly yellow "cheese" spread? Just thinking about that taste makes me gag.
Thanks, Mom, for packing hundreds of lunches for me throughout the years. (And, for the record, my mom made me sandwiches and packed fruit for me; I didn't only eat junk!) It is so much less fun now that I pack my own lunch.

What about you? What were your favorite childhood foods?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I've Been Up To

  • Watching Mad Men—A girl at work loaned me Seasons 1 & 2. It's great! Kind of depressing (just because the characters' lives are so meaningless), but very well done. It's like a less embarrassing Desperate Housewives. Darby and I went through both seasons in about 2 weeks. Do you think we need a life?
  • Playing Dr. Mario—For a wedding gift, Darby gave me Dr. Mario for Nintendo because he knew how much I loved it. When we got the Wii, though, we got rid of our Nintendo. We've thought about buying the game for the Wii, but just kept putting it off. The other night I said something about wanting to play, and Darby went and downloaded it right then! It was only $10; I don't know why we waited so long. Part of the reason I love the game so much is that I (almost) always beat Darby. I don't know how! It doesn't seem like a game I'd be good at.
  • Reading Twilight—Meh. I don't see what all the fuss is about. I can excuse the fact that it's not well-written (hello, Baby-Sitters Club?). But, what I can't excuse is the fact that the plot is completely unbelievable, and the characters are totally unrelatable. The first 2/3 of the book is simply Bella pining away after Edward, even though he is rude to her and tells her to stay away from him for her own good. (Her excuse for not staying away: "He's so dreamy.") Bella is one of the lamest heroines I've ever seen; she is helpless, whiny, and has no self-preservation instinct. There are so many other YA books that are better written and have a better message. Ok. Rant over. I just don't understand how this book got so popular.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BFFs

I love these girls. We are alike in so many ways. We all love to talk, especially about controversial issues (women's roles, politics, religion, to name a few). We love reading, talking about reading, cooking, talking about cooking, eating (as evidenced by the cheesecake picture below), and you guessed it, talking about eating.

But we're also different enough to keep things interesting. Both Kalyn and Brittany are nicer than I am; I'm the one who gets on to everyone in our group for not responding to e-mails or letters quickly enough. :) Kalyn's the absent-minded, artsy type, while Brittany and I are Type-A personalities (oldest children v. youngest child, I guess).

We have so much fun hanging out together. Pretty much because we're all boring. Even in college, we spent most of our time together sitting around talking. When you all enjoy being boring, you're never bored. It's great! Last weekend, we had the best time hanging out in the pool, watching Julie & Julia, eating Kalyn's yummy cooking, and talking, talking, talking. Wish we still lived in the same town (or state!)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm tweeting

This weekend, I went to Kentucky to visit my friend Kalyn. Our friend Brittany flew up from Texas. We all lived together sophomore year of college, so it was a "roomie reunion." We had a great time! I'll share more later when I get a few pictures from Brittany. As always, I am mooching off others for pictures.

One result of the weekend (besides the 5 lbs. I gained from eating 1/4 of a cheesecake in three days) is that I was convinced to join this Twitter thing. I've always maintained that I don't "get" Twitter. What do you write? Why do I care where my friends are every second of the day? But, then I found out that Brittany, Kalyn, and Erin all "tweet," and that I was missing out on a lot. Turns out I do care where my friends are every second of the day. :) If this blog isn't enough for you, now you can follow me on Twitter. My tweets are "protected," so you will have to sign up for an account and ask to follow me (kjahewitt) in order to see them. It will be all Kayla, all the time. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

This week, I made two very good recipes, both healthy because they contain fruits and veggies. (And some butter and sugar and cheese and tortilla chips, respectively.) But the produce definitely makes up for that, I'm sure of it.

This squash casserole is definitely the way to eat squash. It's based on King Ranch Chicken casserole. I omitted the cilantro and used fewer tortilla chips than called for, and it still tasted great.

And these blueberry crumb bars are so delicious and come together so easily. The taste reminds me of the blueberry coffee cake at Starbucks. I love that stuff!

So enjoy and be proud of yourself for getting one step closer to your recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Goal Update

This is so hard to say, but summer's almost over. (I guess it doesn't really matter to me since I work year-round, but summer just seems more fun.) So, here's an update on my goal progress:
  • Go on a picnic. Well, we haven't done this, but we did have a cookout where we ate outside, and we went to the church picnic, so I'm going to call this one accomplished.
  • Play badminton. We've done this a few times, but usually it's too windy (or I'm too lazy). This might be a fail.
  • Finish my wedding scrapbook. Ummm...I've gotten a little closer. I'm not giving up yet. I still have a few weeks left. My friend Megan came over on Saturday, so we could scrapbook together. I made cards that night because most of my wedding scrapbook stuff required the printer, and it wasn't in the same room. We had so much fun! I think we're going to make it a monthly tradition, so I should get a lot more scrapbooking/cardmaking accomplished.
  • Make homemade ice cream. I have made three batches of homemade ice cream, all pretty successful. My favorite was chocolate chip cookie dough. Yum, yum! And eating the leftover cookie dough afterwards wasn't too bad, either.
  • Take a trip with Darby to either Nashville or St. Louis. We went to Nashville with our friends Dylan and Andrea. Darby and I both agreed that it was the highlight of our summer. We're going to try to take a trip together annually.
All in all, it's been a great summer. We've gotten to see a lot of friends and family, but we've also had a lot of down time. I'll miss seeing Darby all the time when he starts back to school in two weeks. But...the beginning of school does mean we are getting closer to Christmas. And I love Christmas!

Friday, August 07, 2009

An elegy*

This week, I had to say goodbye to some good friends. We had only known each other a year, but during that time, we had seen each other almost daily. We had a lot of fun together, but the cost of our friendship was high—both financially and in wasted time. After many discussions and hours spent looking at our options, Darby and I decided we should let them go.

The Comcast man came on Monday and took them away unceremoniously. I waved goodbye as he loaded that beautiful box and the remote with a million buttons in his van and drove away. Farewell Bravo, TLC, HGTV, ExerciseTV, Style, and Food Network. I hardly knew ye.

*Obviously, I'm being a little over-dramatic. I'm actually fairly excited about going back to a cable-less life. When we don't have cable, I hardly miss it, but when we do, I just can't stop watching. It will be good for me to get back to my other hobbies, like reading and scrapbooking. And we do still have basic cable, which includes TBS, so I can still get my Friends, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond fixes. I mean, a girl can't read all the time. :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Today marks one year that we have lived in Champaign/Urbana. In some ways, it's hard to believe we've been here that long. But in other ways it really does feel like our home. Despite the frigid winters, there are a lot of great things about Champaign/Urbana.

10 Favorite Things about Living in CU
  1. Our house. We really lucked out getting this house. We were searching for one- or two-bedroom apartments, and this just fell into our laps. I still sometimes look around and think, "I can't believe we live here." I think having a real house helped a lot in making this city feel like home.
  2. Our church. We would not have survived without Philo Road. Those first few weeks when we didn't know anyone within 400 miles, Darby and I would get so excited about going to church so that we could see people. Everyone made us feel so welcome, and within a few weeks, we felt like we had some close friends.
  3. Spring and Autumn. I had never experienced these seasons before this year. They are wonderful, and I think they might make up for the winter. We'll see if I'm still saying that in January.
  4. The scenery. There are so many parks here, and they are all landscaped beautifully. Everything stays green and beautiful, and there are so many trees. If we end up moving back to Abilene after this (not Plan A), it will be very difficult to adjust to the ugliness.
  5. Meijer. I love this grocery store. Their prices are cheaper than Wal-Mart (because they have better sales), and they have a much better atmosphere. A new Meijer went up by our house a couple of months after we moved here, and I am so thankful for it!
  6. Student discounts at movies. Abilene did not have any, which was crazy! Of course, only Darby gets the discount. (Usually. I don't lie about being a student, but if they just assume I am, I don't argue.) But I am in the "Frequent Moviegoer Club," which means that after a movie has been out for a couple of weeks I can see it for cheaper than student price.
  7. Custard Cup. I've written about my love of this place before. Seriously, Best. Ice cream. Ever.
  8. The restaurants. Champaign/Urbana has so many great, locally-owned restaurants. Darby and I don't get to visit as many as we'd like to, but it's nice to have so many options for birthdays and other special occasions.
  9. The location. It's perfectly positioned about halfway between St. Louis and Chicago, and only an hour and a half from Indianapolis. So far, we've only taken advantage of the proximity to Chicago, but I know we'll visit the other cities soon.
  10. Sidewalks. The city is much more pedestrian/cyclist friendly than Texas. It's nice to be able to take walks in our neighborhood without being in the middle of the street.
I never thought I'd be living in Illinois, but overall, it's been pretty good so far. Of course, we miss our family and friends, which is why we probably won't stay here after Darby graduates. But I don't think we could have asked for a better temporary home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thankful

Today, I realized just how thankful I am for my car. Darby had to go up to a lab near Chicago, so he needed our car. He was able to drop me off at work before he left, but I had to take the bus home. I got off work at 3, and made it home at 4:30! And that's in a city that has a great bus system! It really is a blessing to be able to drive wherever you want whenever you want. That's a luxury that many, many people don't have. It's nice to be reminded of that. I'm also thankful to have a husband who's willing to take the bus to and from school every day, so that I can have our car. I married a good one!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movies

Thanks, everyone, for all your helpful comments on my last post. I think the general consensus is that I need to chill out. (Ha! Imagine that.)

I went with two friends to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. It was good, but I was disappointed because they cut some of my favorite parts of the book and made the ending much less dramatic. I know they can't possibly include everything in a 2 1/2 hour movie, but I just feel sorry for the people who only see the movie instead of reading the book. They don't know what they're missing!

There are two movies coming out in August that I'm dying to see (which is really strange, because usually I don't get too excited about movies). The first is Julie and Julia. I've read both My Life in France and Julie and Julia, and of course the movie combines three of my favorite things: cooking, books, and blogging! (Although, having read Julie and Julia, I think casting Amy Adams as Julia was a terrible choice. I love Amy Adams, but she's going to have to really tone down her adorable perkiness to pull off this part.)

I am also so excited about The Time Traveler's Wife. I seriously get chills and choke up every time I see the preview. That is one of my favorite books ever. A movie has been in the works for several years, and originally there was a rumor that Brad Pitt would play the male lead, Henry. I'm so glad they chose Eric Bana instead. Henry is a librarian in the book. Brad Pitt as a librarian? I don't think so.

By the way, what do you think of my new blog look? Before now, I didn't know how to get a cute-looking header without paying someone to design it. But, thanks to "Sneaky Momma Blog Design," I learned how to create one using Scrapblog, which is a free electronic scrapbooking site. (As a side note, no offense to anyone, but after I have kids, if I ever refer to myself in the third person as "Momma," unless I am speaking directly to my children, please slap me.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Does Martha Do It?

Last night, Darby and I had the college group from church over for a cookout. It was my first "big" use of the grill, and I learned an important lesson: Keep the heat on LOW when cooking burgers. We created a lot of smoke, not to mention a couple of charred burgers.

I love cooking for people and having people over, but here's my problem: I don't really enjoy myself when I'm the host. I feel like I'm running around constantly trying to make sure there's enough food; that silverware is out; that cups are filled with ice, etc. I'm not sure why I seem to have so much trouble with this. I am a fairly organized person, and I always try to get as much done ahead of time as possible. I also try to know my limits and not take on more than I can handle. (For example, I made homemade ice cream for last night, but I did not do any sides; people just brought chips.) But somehow I always end up feeling more than a little harried. And I don't get to sit down and really enjoy being with my guests.

Part of the problem might be the size of my kitchen. There's just not enough counter space to keep everything I need out, so I have to tell people where stuff is. Also, my personality is not what one would call "laid-back" in any situation.

But, I want to be that person who makes entertaining seem effortless. I've been to people's houses where it's like that. Are they just putting on a good act? Or do they really not get stressed out?

I'm hoping that with more practice, I'll get better at striking a balance between making sure everyone is taken care of and actually relaxing and having fun as well. If you are a good host, give me some tips. If you get stressed out like me, let me know, so I don't feel so bad. :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Misc.

Today we had our church picnic. I was wearing jeans and a SWEATSHIRT at NOON!! Are you kidding me? I guess temperatures in the 50s and 60s are better than the 100s, but it just doesn't feel like summer if you are wearing a jacket. Supposedly this is an unseasonably cool year, but they said that last year when we moved here and it was cool in August, so I don't know if I believe them. (Mom, you should really move up here . . . you belong here.)

Darby and I have now watched all 10 seasons of Friends and the first four seasons of the Office. What show should we watch now?

Can anyone figure out a way to mail Blue Bell ice cream from Texas to Illinois? I miss it.

They now make Cherry Dr. Pepper. Woo-hoo! I'm not sure I like it as much as Cherry Coke, but the jury's still out.

And, finally, Darby's mom spotted my dream car while they were traveling through Illinois. (It's even an Escape, like mine!) Check it out:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amy's Wedding Weekend

My lovely frousin (friend + cousin) Amy got married this weekend. She was beautiful, of course, and even more beautiful because of her undeniable happiness. We love her new husband, Matthew. He will make a great frousin-in-law. It was a fabulous weekend that included:


Hanging out with all the frousins (minus John, who's in Taiwan).
Rob, Darby, Matthew (Amy's husband), Matt (my brother), James
Me, Hannah, Amy, Faith

A bridesmaids' luncheon at Mimi's cafe - yum!

Dancing the night away at the reception.

And playing with sweet Gavin (my cousin Faith's baby).

Despite the triple-digit temperatures in Texas, I did NOT want to come back. Time with family is just too short now!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

In all the busyness of the past few weeks, I forgot to post about Darby's parents' visit. After Darby's cousin's wedding, they started a long road trip, part of which involved coming up to see us. Darby's mom hadn't been here since right after we moved in, so it was nice that she got to see the house all set up. We ate a lot of good food, went to see UP (which is GREAT; I cried!), and rented paddleboats at the park. (Sidenote: Why are they called paddleboats and not pedalboats? I mean, you pedal them, so that makes more sense.)

I have never ridden a paddleboat before, and I've always wanted to. Darby and I were going to rent one at a park in Toronto on our honeymoon, but we got there too late. It's been a longstanding joke between us since then that our honeymoon was ruined because I didn't get to ride a paddleboat.

Well, my dream finally came true. It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit I liked canoeing better.

John and Debby

Darb and Me

I'm so glad Darby's parents were able to stay with us for a while. And tonight we got a fun surprise. John and Debby were on their way back from Wisconsin and were driving through Champaign, so they stopped and took us to dinner. (Yes, if you're counting they've been on the road over three weeks, and they won't be back home for another week. They take crazy road trips!) Seeing them three times in a month was a nice change from seeing them once every six months!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Two Years

I love this picture. It totally captures how happy I was on our wedding day. The day was perfect. I really can't think of a thing I would change about it. But, I wouldn't want to go back and experience it again. On that day, I knew my love for Darby would continue to grow, but I couldn't imagine how. Now I know.

Today, I love Darby more than I did that day. Today, we are more of a team than we were then; we understand each other better than we did then; we are better friends than we were then; we love each other more selflessly than we did then.

I have even more excitement about our future than I did that day. Because now I know how much a marriage can deepen in just a couple of years. And we have (God willing) dozens of years ahead of us! I cannot wait to see what those years bring.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fabulous 4th

Darby and I went to Nashville this weekend to meet up with some friends from ACU. Dylan and Andrea live in Georgia now, so Nashville is a great meeting spot, plus, it's a fun city.

We had SO MUCH FUN! On Friday, we met at our hotel (the Millenium Maxwell House), ate great Mexican food, and walked around downtown for a while. Friday night, we ate at a Mafia-themed Italian restaurant. Then, we went on a "ghost tour." A guide dressed in 19th-century clothes led us to different spots in Nashville and told us stories about the ghosts associated with those places. It was pretty cheesy, but interesting. Afterwards, we were going to go to a blues club, but we looked in and it looked a little shady. So we got ice cream, and went back to the hotel to play Rummikub. Pretty crazy, huh?

Saturday, we went out to Cheekwood, which is a restored mansion and botanical gardens. It was beautiful.

Darby and Me

Dylan and Andrea

Then, we went to Opryland. We ate lunch at the Gaylord Opry, peeked in on an Irish-dancing competition (long story), went to the Opry museum, and shopped a little bit at Opry Mills mall. They had an Ann Taylor factory store, so I was in heaven. :)

We thought the fireworks were going to start at 9:30 or 10 (like in Texas). So, we went to dinner around 7 and were planning on driving downtown afterwards. It had been raining off and on, so we weren't even sure the fireworks were going to happen. We left the restaurant around 8:30 (after having the most amazing dessert--cookie dough eggrolls, oh yes!) As we were driving toward downtown, we saw the fireworks start. I'm not sure if they were supposed to start that early or if they were trying to avoid the rain. Traffic was almost at a standstill, so we had a perfect view from our car. It started pouring, but they were still shooting off the fireworks. I felt sorry for everyone standing outside getting soaked. I can't believe how well it worked out for us. We were nice and dry in the car, and we had a fantastic view. The fireworks were incredible! The finale was insane. I'm so glad they weren't canceled.

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast at Panera, went swimming, and checked out. It was a perfect weekend. I have always loved the 4th of July, and this was definitely one of my favorites. We all agreed that we will have to make an annual tradition of taking a trip together.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Birthday, D!

This is Darby with his laser. He's a nerd, but I love him!

Today the love of my life turns 24. (Yes, I married a "younger man." Ha!) Interestingly enough, Darby was supposed to be older than me. I was born two weeks early, and he was born almost three weeks late.

I made him a key lime pie on Monday. (We're going out of town this weekend, so I wanted him to have time to eat all of it.) I think he chose key lime pie because it's one of the few desserts I don't like. He wanted it all to himself! Tonight, we're going out to eat at a burger place that's supposed to be really good.

I love you, Darby! I feel so blessed to be with you on your birthday and every day. You are definitely worth celebrating!

Monday, June 29, 2009

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard on the radio that, according to a study conducted by Clairol (maybe not the most reliable source), women are on average the happiest and most confident at age 28. Two things struck me about this:
  1. Thank goodness I'm not supposed to be my happiest and most confident yet. I mean, I do feel pretty happy, but I think I have a long way to go in the confidence area.
  2. 28? Really? That still seems so young. Is it all downhill from there? I think that there will hopefully be a lot more reasons to be happy and confident when I'm 50 or 60 than at age 28—children, grandchildren, a decades-long marriage, more career experience, a closer relationship with God.

If anyone's reading this who's over 28, what do you think? Were you most happy and confident in your 20s or later in life?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kitchen Fail

There is this hilarious blog I discovered called Craft Fail, where, as the name implies, people post pictures and stories of their failed craft projects. It's always good for a laugh, and it usually makes me feel better about myself, as most all crafts I attempt are "fails."

I think there should be a kitchen fail blog. (Maybe there is one that I don't know about.) Until I find one, I'll just post my own story here. My mom once told me that she enjoys hearing about my kitchen mess-ups, since, according to her, I don't mess up enough (with my cooking...she didn't specify other areas). This one is not as bad as my sausage-ball incident, but it probably is the most number of mistakes I've ever made in one recipe. Feel free to add any of your own kitchen mishaps in the comments; it'll make me feel better.

In preparing for Darby's parents to come, I decided I should probably offer them something for breakfast besides dry cereal. I've been wanting to make this coffee cake from Smitten Kitchen for quite some time. It seemed simple enough, and I was super excited to use my new kitchen scale to precisely measure the flour.

I had already decided to substitute blueberries for rhubarb, and light brown sugar for dark brown sugar. Little did I know that those changes were just the tip of the iceberg.

I dole out 1 3/4 cup flour, mix the dry ingredients together, and get ready to mix the wet ingredients. Uh-oh. The recipe calls for one egg and one egg yolk. I only have one egg. After some Googling, I decide that I can substitute 1/4 c. applesauce for the egg yolk.

I mix the wet and dry ingredients together and notice that the mixture seems a little dry. So, I go back and re-read the direction. Uh-oh again. The 1 3/4 c. flour was for the crumb topping. The cake was only supposed to have 1 c. flour. So I add a little milk.

As I'm making the crumb topping, I realize that I put an extra 2 tbsp. of butter in the cake batter, which is why it only seemed a little dry, not super dry, I guess. Hmmm...now I have no idea how my ratio of wet/dry ingredients compares to the actual recipe. Uh-0h #3. I decide to just go with it.

I stir together the flour, sugar, and spices for the crumb topping. I'm about to pour in the melted butter, when I read that I was supposed to mix the sugar and butter together, then stir in the flour. Uh-oh #4. I go ahead and pour the butter in. The topping is supposed to come together like a solid dough, which you then break apart. It doesn't. At this point, I'm afraid to add more butter. Also, I'm lazy and just want to be done. So I just sprinkle the topping over the cake and put it in the oven.

Amazingly, after all of that, the cake was still edible, although a little dry. I feel like I have to make the cake again, though, since I pretty much have no idea what the actual recipe would taste like. I also feel like I should perhaps learn how to read recipes. :)