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


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


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


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!