Saturday, December 25, 2010

Highlights since we began our trip last Thursday:
  • Staying in a beautiful cabin in Carbondale and enjoying a relaxing time with Darby between the stress of school and the (good) craziness of our Christmas trip.
  • Seeing Kalyn and BJ and holding sweet baby Shepherd in Kentucky.
  • Spending time with all the Arkansas cousins, but especially Alison and Joey, who let us stay at their apartment and kick their butts at Mario Kart. :)
  • Meeting Jeremy and Janice for lunch at Gloria's in Dallas.
  • Many delicious meals and chats with Darby's parents.
  • Meeting Brittany and Erin at Magnolia Cafe in Austin for dinner and a long chat.
  • Trading in books at our favorite used bookstore, Book Rack.
  • Staying up late playing Settlers of Catan and Dominion with Hannah and Matt.
  • Dinner, dessert, and gifts with our family friends the Joneses and Hasslers. We've been getting together with them since I was a toddler.
  • Getting a pedicure with my sister. We both got like a 20-minute foot and leg massage. It was awesome!
  • Making cake balls with my mom.
  • Watching this video dozens of times and cracking up. It might be a "have to be there" type thing, but my family is now obsessed with saying "I like turtles."
  • Christmas dinner at La Fiesta and gift-opening with my family.
  • Time with the frousins, aunts and uncles, and grandma in Dallas. We had some intense CatchPhrase games.
  • Exchanging gifts with Darby's parents tonight.
Whew. Now that I wrote it all out, it seems like a lot to cram in to 10 days, and I guess it has been busy. But it's been super-fun and fairly relaxing, too. Now, we're getting ready to leave on our CRUISE!! I'm so psyched!

I love everything about the Christmas season: the food, the decorations, the gifts, the shopping, etc. And I don't think it's bad to enjoy those things. But I also want to be sure I take time to remember what's behind the sparkly lights and shiny paper, the true wonder of Christmas. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

Monday, December 20, 2010

To 15-year-old Kayla

I really like the second part of this prompt, so I'm going to focus on that.

December 21. Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)
Dear Kayla,

I'm writing this to you from the year 2010, at age 25. First of all, let me say that 25 will not seem nearly as old when you actually get to it. :)

If I could give you only one piece of advice, it would be: stop worrying. So many things that seem like a big deal now will not matter at all in 10 years. I know that's hard to believe, but if you can believe it, it will save you so much heartache.

Stop caring so much about what other people think of you. Ten years from now, you will not wish you had been more popular; you will wish you had been more confident. Be kind to the "weird" kids. When you're 25, you'll see the way teenagers treat outsiders, and it will make you so angry. You'll be ashamed to know that, when you were in their shoes, you didn't act much better.

Stop worrying so much about the future. I don't want to ruin it for you, but I don't think you would be able to guess right now who you're married to, where you're living, and what you're doing (and have done) at age 25. Everything will work out. In fact, much of it has worked out in spite of your planning, not because of it. So, relax a little.

When people say high school is the best time of your life, they're either lying or they have a pretty lame life. You'll have a lot of good times during the rest of high school, but don't be discouraged if these years seem difficult. The best is definitely yet to come.

Love,
Kayla

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Moment and Wisdom

Here's a couple more Reverb prompts.
Dec. 3. Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
Hmmm...this is a tough one. I'm not sure if the moment I'm about to describe is the one in which I felt most alive, but it is a small moment that has stayed with me.

One afternoon in October, I was walking home from the bus stop. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, and I was admiring the orange and red leaves of the trees against the bright blue sky. All of a sudden, this verse popped into my head: "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1). Now, that hasn't been one of my favorite verses, and I hadn't been reading Psalms at the time. I really felt like it was God who gave me that verse in that moment to remind me that I should be praising him for the beauty that surrounds me. I don't have those feelings very often; I have a very intellectual faith. So, I am always grateful when I feel like I have those reassurances of God's presence.

Dec. 10. Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)
I think the wisest decision I made in 2010 was to apply to graduate school. Now, I sort of made this decision in 2009. But, the process didn't end until 2010, so I'm counting it. It's my blog; I can do what I want to. ;) The decision was a tough one for me. I went back and forth about what I wanted to do; my confidence had been shaken by my denial the previous time I had applied (for a different program); I had to really push to get all of my application materials in on time. But here's the part of the decision where I think wisdom came into play: I really wondered, "Is it even worth it to go back to school?" Because, when I have children, I plan to stay at home at least at first. So I might not have the opportunity to use my degree in the traditional sense for very long before I become a stay-at-home mom. But I finally came to the realization that I need to make the best decision for my life now because I just don't know what the future will bring. We might not be able to have children. I might stay home for a while and decide I want to go back to work. We might not be in a financial position for me to stay at home. I decided I can't let what might or might not happen in the future prevent me from being happy now. (Obviously this position can be taken to the extreme, such as not saving any money, but I'm in much more danger of the other extreme.) I'm so glad I made the decision I did. I love what I'm doing now. And, I'm realizing that there are a lot of opportunities for part-time ESL teaching and tutoring. So, it will be a great career to have if and when I have children.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

One Word

So, I recently found out about an online project called Reverb '10, which encourages bloggers to reflect on the past year and think about what's ahead by answering daily prompts for the entire month of December. Now, I think it's more of a project for serious writers, which, obviously, I am not. But I'm a sucker for self-reflection (and predetermined blog topics). So I thought I'd take a look at a few of the prompts.

December 1. One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)
I think my one word for 2010 would be "purpose". Starting graduate school has really helped me feel that my life has a specific purpose again. I really missed that feeling.

Also, I feel like I really strove to live more purposefully in general in 2010. I set a lot of goals for myself, and I accomplished quite a few of them. One thing I'm really trying to be mindful of is that I have control over my time. I'm trying to eliminate the phrase, "I don't have time" from my vocabulary. Because, really, we all make time for the things we want to do. And I don't think there's anyone who doesn't spend at least some time each week watching TV, playing video games, or browsing the Internet. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it just proves the inaccuracy of the "I don't have time" excuse. A more accurate expression is, "I'm choosing not to spend my time that way." Just my little soapbox for the day. ;)

I would like for my word for 2011 to be "contentment." I want to spend less time complaining and more time being grateful for the blessings I have. I want to continue to set goals for myself and achieve them but also remember that my life is fulfilling even if I don't cross everything off my "to cook" list and I have to run around frantically cleaning up every time someone's coming over.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Well, we're in the full Christmas spirit at our house. When we got back from Texas, we put up our tree and other decorations. After Christmas last year, we brought back Darby's nutcracker collection, so we were able to display those this year. I think they look great on our ledge.


It is looking very Christmasy outside, too. This weekend, we got about 8 inches of snow (they had predicted 1–3). The snow is pretty, and we can actually enjoy it as we haven't had to live with it for very long yet. It is VERY cold (highs around 20 and strong north winds). This is the first winter that I've actually had to spend much time outside. Even with triple layers on, it's a very cold walk to the bus stop. I'm surviving, though.

Last night, we hosted a little Christmas party for our ACU group. After Christmas last year, Debby and I went shopping and she bought me these adorable Christmas plates, so I needed an excuse to use them. :) I fixed a few appetizers and desserts, and it was a lot of fun.



The boys: Austin, Daniel, Darby


The girls: Me, Liz, Erin

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankful Wrap-Up

Well, we made it back to Urbana this afternoon. It was a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving break. Now, we just have 3 weeks until we head back to Texas for Christmas! :)

I really enjoyed focusing on thankfulness this month, and I think it did help me appreciate the holiday in a deeper way. I'll wrap up the last few days of thankfulness in this one post (since I don't seem to do too well at posting everyday).

I'm thankful for:
  • Being able to see Darby's brother Jeff and his wife and two sons. We don't see them very often, so it was nice to be able to spend some time together. Darby's nephews, Josh and Joey, just adore him, and it's fun to see him play with them.
  • Darby's grandpa, Elmer. He came down to Waco for a couple of days, so we were able to talk with him some. He is 90 years old but seems much younger. He goes on trips all the time with an LCU alumni group. I got to see pictures from his most recent trips to Philadelphia/Niagara Falls and Alaska. He is such an interesting person, and I really hope Darby inherits his genes so he'll live to at least 90. :)
      3 generations of Hewitt men
  • My wonderful high school girlfriends. I had coffee with Jessica and Whitney on Friday night. I love that we are able to maintain our friendship even though we don't see or even talk to each other all that often. It's so nice to catch up on each others' lives, but I really appreciate that we can move beyond small talk and share stories about the difficulty of making friends, the challenges of supporting significant others through grad school, and post-college job disillusionment. That makes it sound like we're all really depressed people; we're not! It's just nice to have people that you know you can be open with. Hopefully, I'll be able to see Krista and Stephanie at Christmas.
  • The news that my cousin Amy is expecting her first baby in June! For her whole life, Amy has dreamed of being a mom. She used to carry around Matt like a baby when he was far too old to be carried. I'm so excited for her and her husband, Matthew, and I can't wait to have a new little frousin around!
  • Being able to see our friend Jon, who just returned from Marine boot camp, tonight. He's been gone for 16 weeks and will be gone off and on for the next few months, then he and Katy will move to Massachusetts for 7 months, and then who knows where. :( I'm so glad we made it back in time to see him and hear about some of his boot camp experiences. I know he and Katy are going to do great things wherever they end up, but we sure will miss them here.
Since I tried to be timely with my Thanksgiving posts, there are some things I didn't mention. I'm thankful for all of my extended family: my Grandma Katherine, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I'm thankful for our church family and all of our friends. I'm thankful for our health and our financial security. I think it's wonderful that I have too many things to be thankful for; I can't get to them all in one month!

Of course, I could write for pages about how thankful I am for my family and Darby's family. Every time we go home, we are reminded of how truly blessed we are. We love spending time with our families. And, even though I mentioned him once before, I feel like I should emphasize how incredibly grateful I am for Darby. I may be biased, but I'm pretty sure he's the best husband in the world.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful #24

Today, I'm thankful for my sister, Hannah. She got in to Waco today, and I was so excited to see her. When we had dinner with my family on Tuesday night before she got here, Darby commented, "Your house was kind of quiet tonight." We realized it was because Hannah wasn't there. :) We make fun of her quite a bit, but she does bring a lot of fun and excitement to our family. There's never a dull moment with Hannah, and I like that. I'm really looking forward to our annual sisters shopping day on Friday!

Thankful #23

Today, I'm thankful for my brother, Matt. He got into town yesterday, so we were able to eat dinner, chat, and play games with him last night. He's a junior at ACU, and it's been so fun to see the age gap seem to narrow as we've gotten older. 4 years seemed like a lot when I was 18 and he was 14, for example. But now, it really doesn't seem to matter too much. I really enjoy talking with him, and I'm excited to see the great things he accomplishes as he gets older. He wants to be a youth minister, and I know he's going to be an awesome one!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful #22

Today, I'm thankful for my hometown. Waco really was a great place to grow up. I love coming home to visit---brings back a lot of good memories. This town just feels comfortable to me.

Today, Darby's mom had to work, and Darby and his dad went to the shooting range, so I went to my parents' house to hang out with my mom for a little while. I took Darby's old car (which now belongs to his dad). As I was driving the familiar route between Darby's parents' house and my parents' house, I thought about how crazy it was that for years I used to ride as a passenger in that car with Darby when we were dating. And now I'm his wife, and I'm a part of his family, and they let me borrow their cars. I can't explain it very well. Going home always makes me realize how far our relationship has come. The setting is so similar to what it was 9 years ago, but our relationship is so different. I'm so glad we made it through the somewhat tumultuous early years. No matter what had happened, I'm sure Darby and I would each return to our hometown often. I'm glad we get to go back home together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful #20 & 21

Today, I'm thankful for my in-laws. They came to pick us up from the train station this afternoon, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at home (very welcome after a day in which I ate only mini bagels, Cheez-Its, and a Fiber One granola bar), and now we're relaxing watching "Undercover Boss." I'm looking forward to spending the next few days with them.

I'm also thankful that I survived my first long-distance train ride. 21 hours on a train is quite a long time! :) But, I got in plenty of reading and some sleep, so it wasn't too bad.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thankful #18 & 19

Today, I'm thankful that I'm off of school until Nov. 29th!

And, I'm super super thankful that we're leaving for Texas TOMORROW!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankful #17

Today, I'm thankful for my parents. Obviously, I'm thankful for them every day. But I got to talk to them both this evening, which was great. They both called separately to check on me because they had seen my post yesterday where I said I was sick. It's nice to be taken care of, even as an adult. :) And I'm so excited to see them in just a few days for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankful #15 & 16

Today, I'm thankful for my sweet husband who takes care of me when I'm not feeling well. I have a little cold, and I'm blogging from bed, because Darby insisted I not work on any homework and go straight to bed. This was after he made me hot chocolate and helped me not to feel guilty about skipping my Spanish class. :)

I'm also thankful because I finished one of my major semester projects this evening. That's a big weight off my shoulders!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thankful #13 & 14

Today, I am thankful for answered prayers. I just found out some good news about a person I'd been praying for for a long time. I won't share the news because it's not mine to share, but I have been thanking God since I found out.

I'm also thankful for the opportunity I had to talk to my friend Laura on the phone last night. Laura and I worked together at ACU and became good friends during that time. Every so often (I wish it could be more often), we have marathon phone conversations to catch up on each others' lives. I love our talks and am so thankful that Laura makes an effort to keep in touch with me. We have now been friends in separate states much longer than we were friends in the same city, and, happily, time and distance have not hurt our friendship (although I'd love to be in the same city again!).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thankful #11 & 12

Ack! I can't keep up! :) I seriously think about posting every day, but then I forget when I get home.

Today, I'm thankful for my Secret Sister. The women at church did this thing where we were assigned a secret sister who we gave little gifts and cards to. On Thursday night, we had the "reveal" at Olive Garden. The woman who had me was out of town and couldn't be there, but it was still fun to get to talk to all of the other women. My secret sister gave me some really neat gifts and wrote very encouraging notes. It was a fun program; we're going to do it again in the spring, so I'm excited.

I'm also thankful for my conversation partner. We meet every Wednesday and talk for an hour, so that she can improve her English. She is so sweet, and I really enjoy talking with her. This past week, we went and got Custard Cup and then walked around the park while we talked. It was a beautiful day, and we had such a good time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thankful #8, 9, 10

Oops. I got a little behind on my thankfulness! So I'll do three today.

Today, I'm thankful for:
  • Sunshine. We've been having beautiful sunny days, and I'm just soaking it in. The time change has been a little easier to handle this year. I still don't like that it gets dark at 5 p.m., but at least I am able to be outside some during the day to enjoy the sunlight.
  • Temperatures in the 70s. In November!! It's awesome!
  • Cell phones. Isn't it amazing that we can talk to/text friends and family basically whenever we want? It makes being far away sooo much easier.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thankful #7

Today, I'm thankful for Sundays. They are always such a wonderful day. Today was especially so because my friend from school came to church with us, and then our preacher and his wife treated the three us to the brunch buffet at Silvercreek. If you live in C-U and you've never been to Silvercreek on Sunday, you have to go. There is so. much. food. And it's all delicious. They have both breakfast and lunch items, plus dessert. After brunch, we came home for our requisite Sunday afternoon nap and then headed to our small group. We reformulated our small groups this semester, and it's been fun to get to know some new people. After small group, it was home for some episodes of 30 Rock, housecleaning, and homework. A good day.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thankful #6

Today, I'm thankful for an extra hour of sleep tonight. :)

A funny story related to this: When I was little, I always heard people making such a big deal about an extra hour of sleep. So, I got the impression that the extra hour of sleep occurred every night between "fall back" and "spring forward." I would wake up every day thinking, "Wow, I feel so rested!" I don't remember how old I was when I finally figured out that we only got an extra hour that one night, but it was much too old, I'm sure. I wish I could convince myself that was true again, though. I'd love to feel extra rested every day.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thankful #5

Today, I'm thankful for new friends. I feel like it has taken a while, but I'm finally getting to know some of my classmates better. Our program is really neat because we're divided into two cohorts, and we take classes with the same people every semester. So, I'm glad I'm starting to make connections because I'll be with the same people for the next two years!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thankful #4

Today, I'm thankful for my house. I still remember how excited I felt when we saw it for the first time on the day we moved in. And for those first few months, I would just walk around thinking, "I can't believe we live here." After our tiny apartment in Abilene, it felt like a mansion! But now that I'm used to it, I catch myself saying, "I wish we had a bigger living room," or "It'd be nice to have an island." And, sure, it would be great to have those things, and I'm sure we will at some point in our lives. But I don't want to let wishing for that make me take for granted what we have now. Because what we have now is awesome! :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thankful #3

Today, I'm thankful for things that keep me warm on cold days: my coat, my heater, my garage, coffee, and Panera soup in a bread bowl. :) I think about people that can't even afford a coat, and here I am with coats to spare, not to mention a centrally-heated house. I complain about the cold quite a bit, but really, I don't have much to complain about.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thankful #2

Oops! Already messed up. Forgot to post anything yesterday. I had to backdate this one. :)

Today, I'm thankful for old friends. On the first of each month, I send an update e-mail to all of the Fat Tuesday girls. Each person hits "Reply All" and sends their own update. It's so fun to hear what everybody's doing. I'm thankful that, even though we're spread out across 4 states, we can keep in touch easily. We're planning a reunion for June, and I'm so excited!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thankful #1

Well, Halloween's over. So you know what that means?? It's officially the holiday season! I absolutely love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this year I want to really try to slow down and focus more on the "reason for the season." I don't know if it's friends having babies or just turning the ripe old age of 25, but I've really been thinking a lot lately about what I want life to look like when Darby and I have children. I definitely want to find ways to emphasize the religious parts of holidays, not just food and gifts (although I looooove food and gifts!). And, I thought, the best way to do that is to start now, in my own life, so that it's natural for me to pass that on to my children some day. (Now, passing on good eating habits is another story . . . )

So, I really want to try to focus on being thankful this month. God has blessed my life so immensely. I try to remember to be thankful all of the time, but Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to practice gratitude even more. I'm going to try to post every day this month with a different thing I'm thankful for (whether big or little).

Today, I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in school. These past couple of weeks have been kind of stressful, but even in the midst of that, I wake up every day so happy. I love my classes, and I really think ESL teaching is going to be a great career for me. For the 3-1/2 years after I graduated college, I really struggled, feeling like I had no purpose. I still wish I had decided what I wanted to do earlier, but I am grateful for that time because it helped me really appreciate this opportunity. I don't think I would have such a positive attitude about schoolwork if I hadn't seen the alternative. I want to remember to be thankful for this every day for the next two years.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hurry up, November 2nd

I am so tired of political commercials! I don't know if it's as bad everywhere as it is here, but literally every other commercial is a political ad, and 95% of them are negative. I have no idea what any of the candidates' platforms are; all I know is that, according to their opponents, every single person running for office in Illinois is a selfish, lying idiot (which may be the truth...it is Illinois). My favorites are the ones that say "Alexi Giannoulias, U.S. Senator...You've got to be kidding!" and one that says "Bill Brady...Who is this guy?" The commercials basically imply that anyone who would even consider voting for these people is a complete idiot. Alexi is a Democrat, and Bill is a Republican, so this is on both sides. I used to be a big proponent of exercising our right to vote, but I'm just so fed up, I don't even care any more. Any candidate who would allow these negative ads to run would not make a good leader, in my opinion, so that rules out almost everybody. Is anyone else super frustrated with this whole process?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Master" Darby


Well, I feel bad because I kind of let this slip through the cracks, but Darby got his master's degree in August. It's kind of a weird situation. For Ph.D. students, at least in Electrical Engineering at the U of I, the master's degree is just not that big of deal. Many programs don't even require a master's for students who are pursuing a Ph.D., so this program is unusual. Darby decided not to walk for his master's because August graduates have to walk the next May. Besides it being so far away, it's kind of anticlimactic to go from your graduation ceremony straight back to your lab to continue working.

But, I realized, this is crazy! A master's degree at all is a big deal. And, in a very difficult program . . . that's huge! Darby got his diploma in the mail a couple of weeks ago and we got it framed, so I thought this would be the perfect time to post about his accomplishment. I am so incredibly proud of him. He is such a hard worker and has done so well with his research. In all honesty, I thought grad. school would be much more difficult for our marriage than it has been (I say this realizing we still have 3 intense years ahead of us). I'm very thankful that, in the midst of school stresses and worries, Darby sees our relationship as a blessing rather than another demand. I've never (ok, rarely) doubted where I rank in his priorities. I am so proud to be his wife, always, and especially when I see him achieve something he's worked so hard for. Next stop: Dr. Darby! :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frousin Wedding Weekend

Last weekend, I went to Boulder, Colorado, for my cousin John's wedding. We call our cousins "frousins" (friend + cousin). This was the first time that all of the frousins had been together in probably 10 years. Sadly, I don't think anyone got a picture of all of us together. :(

It was a beautiful wedding (if a bit chilly), and it was wonderful to see all of my family. Our new frousin, Melanie, is very sweet and I'm so happy for her and John.

Melanie and John. John's dad (my Uncle Gary) performed the ceremony, and it was very personal and sweet.

Me, Matt, and Hannah. This is not a very good picture of me, but it's the best one I got of the three of us. Darby couldn't come because of school. I missed him a lot, but it was kind of fun to share a hotel room with my mom, dad, sister, and brother again. It was just like old times, especially since Hannah and I shared a bed.

Me and Amy at the reception. The food was delicious, and all of us frousins had a great time dancing together. We're kind of crazy (it even rubs off on me a little).

Hannah and Gavin, my cousin Faith's son. I really like the tuxedo/bottle look. You can't tell from this picture, but he is just the sweetest, happiest little guy. He loves to be tickled and zerberted(?) and has a precious little giggle.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Update

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I last posted. The great thing about being in school is that the weeks really fly by. The semester is already a third over---crazy! Here's a little update on what I've been doing for the past few weeks:
  • Taking a Spanish class through the adult education center. It's so fun! The teacher is a middle-school Spanish teacher and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I haven't seriously practiced my Spanish in years, so this has been great.
  • Meeting with my conversation partner. She's a Korean woman who has three teenage children. We get together every Wednesday at a coffee shop to chat for an hour. It's been very fun to get to know her, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how her English improves throughout the semester.
  • Not cooking. :( Having class until 6:30 on Tuesday and Thursday, and events on Monday and Wednesday evenings has really cut into my cooking time. We've been eating out a little more, and I've been making a lot of easy stuff like sandwiches, pasta, salads, pancakes, etc. I miss cooking nice meals, but this is just the way it has to be right now.
  • Eating my candy corn and drinking my pumpkin spice lattes. Mmmm...fall!
  • Watching 30 Rock. On a recommendation from my friend Erin, Darby and I decided to rent the first season. We had occasionally caught parts of episodes on TV and always found it kind of annoying. I'm so glad we decided to give it a chance. It's hilarious! I laugh out loud multiple times per episode. We're almost done with Season 2 now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last weekend I went to Kentucky for my friend Kalyn's baby shower. She's expecting a little boy on October 20th. This was the first time I had seen her during her pregnancy. She was adorable! I'm so excited for her and her husband, BJ.

Even 8 months pregnant, Kalyn was the perfect hostess. She fixed 3 delicious meals and a great apple dessert. We spent hours and hours talking, which is always fun.

She got a lot of great gifts at the shower---lots of little boy clothes. So cute! I can't wait to meet the little guy and hold him. Darby and I are going to try to see them on our way south for Christmas. I'm glad we live within driving distance of each other, so that I can experience this exciting time with her.


Isn't she precious? Still so little except for the belly.

The cake at Kalyn's shower was so cute! It was made by an amateur baker. Wow.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

26 before 26

So, ever since my birthday, I've been trying to come up with my goals for my next birthday. Obviously, I had to do a lot of thinking. :) I was determined this time to actually come up with 26. That was kind of difficult. I don't know that I'll be able to match my number of goals to my age for many more years. I've started on some of the goals already, but I waited to post until I had them all in mind. So, in no particular order, here are my goals for the next 10 or so months:
  1. Finish couch-to-5K. I'm up to running an 8-1/2 minute mile continuously, and then another mile broken up with brief intervals of walking.
  2. Take and pass at least one of my seven comprehensive exams.
  3. Finish my shelf of unread books. I'm down to 12!
  4. Lose 5 lbs. and maintain it. I am not unhappy with my weight, but I do keep gradually putting on a few pounds each year. I'm trying to combat that.
  5. Take at least 100 pictures.
  6. Finish my one-year Bible. This is actually a two-year Bible for me. :)
  7. Make it through my housecleaning checklist. I made a list of things to do around the house when I thought I wasn't going to be working this summer. I ended up working full-time or being gone most of the summer, so I didn't get around to all of them.
  8. Make cheese. I just think this would be cool to say I did.
  9. Come up with at least 2 healthy vegetarian meals that Darby and I actually enjoy. I try to limit our meat intake to save money, but my vegetarian repertoire is limited to unhealthy things like pasta and quesadillas.
  10. Start my personal Happiness Project.
  11. Go to three events at the U of I.
  12. Make crepes. Darby loves them, and I've promised him I'll learn how to make them.
  13. Reduce our monthly gift budget. I don't want to buy fewer gifts or lower-quality gifts, but I want to think ahead so I can make more gifts or find them on sale rather than paying full price at the last minute.
  14. Go to St. Louis (for real this time).
  15. Save an average of 25% on every grocery shopping trip.
  16. Take a Spanish class. I'm starting in a week!
  17. Make homemade tortillas. I tried this once a couple of months ago, and it was a complete disaster. I will not be defeated!
  18. Initiate plans with friends twice per month.
  19. Whittle "to try" recipes saved online to 200 (currently at 272).
  20. Redesign my blog.
  21. Read 3 faith-related books.
  22. Plan an event for our college group.
  23. Stay in better touch with my sister and brother.
  24. Watch at least 4 football games on TV. Darby thinks this is ridiculous, but I'm trying to make myself a football fan. I feel like sports fans always have something to talk about with other people. And there's something so appealing to me about being able to lay on the couch and watch TV every weekend without feeling guilty b/c you're supporting your team.
  25. Become a Conversation Partner. This is a program at the university where you're paired with an international student to get together and talk for an hour a week. I've actually already signed up for this, but I had to include some things I've already done to get to 26!
  26. Spend no more than 1 hour per day on the Internet (unless it's for work, school, or personal finance reasons). This will be necessary if I plan to accomplish all of the above!

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Impressions

Well, I made it through my first week of grad. school. I am soo tired! It has been difficult for me to get back in the swing of things. What's this homework stuff? :) I'm sure I'll get used to it soon, though. My classes are very interesting and all my professors seem nice. A few random impressions:
  • Bigger does not mean nicer. One of my classes is in a building called the Armory. It is this huge warehouse-type building that's been converted into a gym/classrooms. It has at least 10 different staircases, and they each only go to certain rooms. The desks have got to be 50 years old, and there are still old-school overhead projectors in the rooms. Plus, the building doesn't seem to be air conditioned, or at least not well. I only thought Chambers at ACU was bad. :) Granted, Illinois does have some extremely nice facilities (like the rec center), but when buildings are bad, they're really bad.
  • I have walked more in my first week than I probably walked in a year at my job. I'm enjoying the exercise now, but I'm not sure it'll be quite so fun when it's -20 degrees.
  • I had no reason to worry about my first-day outfit. Several girls have shown up to class in workout clothes. ACU this is not. Nary a high heel in sight (see above point about walking). I fit in just fine. :)
  • When you are bad at remembering names, remembering Chinese, Japanese, and Korean names is virtually impossible. I've got to get better at this!
Overall, I'd say the first week was a success. I'm really glad it's Friday, though!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School!

I start classes on Monday, and I could not be more excited! I got to go school supply shopping, which I love. I'm all set with my Pilot Precise V5 pens, a 3-subject notebook (hot pink, what else?), and a very cute messenger bag from Target. I did a practice bus ride with Darby on Monday morning. Riding the bus makes me very nervous. If it's late at all, I worry that I missed it; I start getting so nervous when it's time to pull the cord for my stop—what if I pull it too early or too late?; and I cannot read the bus schedule to save my life. Good thing I have Darby. :) Despite my efforts to push it out of my mind, I've even been worrying about what to wear. I guess no matter how old I get or how many times I start a new school or job, there will always be a little of that 14-year-old girl in me, wondering whether her clothes are "cool" enough and nervous that she won't have anyone to talk to. (Thankfully, there's just a little of her in there; I'm much more self-confident than I was at 14—much.) Anyway, I'm just so grateful that I have this opportunity to go back to school (remind me of that in 3 months when I'm stressing about tests and papers)!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Darby's parents came to visit last Tuesday. Darby and I had to work on Wednesday and Thursday, but we were able to enjoy dinner and relaxing time in the evenings. And to keep herself occupied during the day, Debby stocked my freezer with her famous crescent rolls. Yum! On Thursday evening, we drove up to Lombard, a suburb of Chicago. We had dinner at a Weber Grill restaurant. Their pretzel rolls are delicious!

On Friday, we rode the train into the city. If you're counting, this was mine and Darby's fourth trip to Chicago in five months! We're practically locals. ;) Debby planned some really neat excursions for us this time. We did an architecture boat tour in the morning and a Segway tour in the afternoon. I had always been curious about Segways, and it was really a lot of fun! It took me a little bit to get the hang of it, but once I did, it was easy. Of course, we had to cross some incredibly busy streets and we got some strange looks and comments, but I figure I'll never see those people again! It was a beautiful day—sunny with highs in the low-80s—a nice break from the multiple 110-heat-index days we had in Champaign last week.

On Saturday morning, John and Debby headed up to Wisconsin and Darby and I came back home. It was wonderful visit; I'm so glad they were able to come.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

On house-hunting and marriage

I just had to share this excerpt I read today on A Practical Wedding, a blog that I follow. The writer, Sharon, perfectly describes my feelings toward the concept of soulmates and the role of choice in love. You should really read her entire post, but here's the part that made me tear up a little:

I think dating/deciding to marry is something like deciding to buy a house and make it your home. . . . [Y]ou will see many houses, and most of them will have some aspect of what you want. One will have the gorgeous bay windows and gleaming hardwood floors. Another will have the giant kitchen with the granite countertops. A third will have a turret and built-in shelves. . . . You can see yourself living in all of them. But the day comes when you decide that one house is the one you're going to buy. You move in. You clean. You do a bit of painting. You learn to live with the slight incline in the floors and to jump the creaky step in the staircase. You have dinner parties that last until 2am in this house. You host holidays in this house. You bring your babies back to this house. You could've had any of the houses you looked at, all those years ago. But you chose this one and it's now the only home you can imagine having.

I think this metaphor is so lovely; I wish I had thought of it. You choose to marry someone because you love them. But the very act of choosing, and everything that follows from that choice, helps you to love that person forever, creaky steps and all.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Goodbyes

We had to say goodbye to several people from church this week. Our friend Jon is leaving for Marine boot camp tomorrow. We hosted a going-away party for him last Saturday. We went to Olive Garden, then came back to our house for dessert and games. It was a lot of fun, but we are certainly going to miss him. His wife Katy will be staying here for several months longer, so we don't have to say goodbye to both of them yet. It will be very hard when they move to wherever he is stationed. Why do friends have to pursue their dreams? They should just stay where they are forever. ;)

The group at Olive Garden. Katy & Jon are beside Darby.

Wednesday night was my last time to have my little buddy Torin in the Cradle Roll class. I've been teaching him since he was 4 months old---17 months ago! On Sunday mornings he is our only student, so my co-teacher, Stephanie, and I have gotten to know him very well. It's been so neat to watch him grow from a baby into a little boy. He's incredibly smart; seriously, his vocabulary and ability to put together sentences is equal to many 3- or 4-year-olds. His parents are in our Young Marrieds group, and we will miss their whole family; they are moving to Nebraska. I keep saying that someone at church needs to have a baby, so I'll have a student in Cradle Roll again. But, I'm not volunteering for the job, so I guess I better keep my mouth shut!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BFFs: Whitney

Thanks for the advice on my last post. I did want to emphasize that I am very thankful for the friendships I do have. I have several friends that I know I can call anytime and that really do "get me." It's just that they live hundreds of miles away. And, while long-distance friends are great, and I definitely want to maintain those relationships, sometimes you just want someone within 20 miles, you know?

So, in that spirit, I thought I would do a post about my BFFs over the years. My very first best friend was Whitney. My family moved to Robinson Church of Christ when I was 6, and Whitney and I became fast friends soon after. Looking back, the funniest thing to me about our friendship was that we argued all. the. time. We didn't really get in a lot of fights, per se, just bickered back and forth like an old married couple. But, it didn't stop us from being close friends. I don't know how many nights I spent over at her house. Below are just a few of the quirky things I remember about our relationship.
  • When the JCPenney Christmas catalog would come, we would call each other and flip through every page together. We were allowed to pick one item per page. (Not to have, obviously; this was some kind of weird fantasy world.) This wasn't just limited to toys; we'd also pick out women's clothes, men's clothes for our future husbands, everything.
  • We used to make these crazy concoctions of raw eggs, spices, mayonnaise, basically whatever was in the fridge. Then, I guess we'd just throw it out. Not sure why we thought this was fun, but we loved it.
  • In the summer, I would go with Whitney to visit her grandmother in Corsicana. We'd swim in her aunt's pool and watch soaps with her grandma. Her grandma was so sweet and would do all of our laundry before we went back home.
  • After Princess Diana died, we bought all these tabloids and magazines and spent an entire evening reading about it (and looking for pictures of Prince William!)
  • We became pen pals (yes, even though we lived in the same town). We would write each other letters and deliver them to church on Sunday. Not sure why we couldn't just tell each other what was in the note. :)
  • We loved The Babysitters' Club and read all of the books. My mom took us to Dallas to see Ann M. Martin and get one of our books autographed.
I could go on and on. I have so many precious memories of Whitney. We didn't spend quite as much time together in the later years of high school, but our friendship remained strong. And we argued a lot less ,too! I'll talk more about Whitney when I share about my other best friends from the youth group. I am very blessed to have her a lifelong friend. Even though we don't see each other very often, we can always pick up where we left off. And now, I get to keep up with her through her blog. I love to hear her thoughts on books and Christianity and see how well she and her husband are doing in Ft. Worth.

And now, a little photo trip down memory lane.

Our earliest picture together (that I have). My 8th birthday party. Whitney and I are on the left. Hannah's the dork on the floor. :)

Sleepover at my house. Yes, I believe we are only wearing nightshirts, no shorts. We were very comfortable with each others' families.

Skiing in Monarch, Colorado

Our 14th (me) and 15th (Whitney) birthday party at Whitney's house. Probably way too old for a Veggie Tales theme. :)


Dressed up as Sonny and Cher (or at least our ideas of them) to sing "I've Got You Babe" during karaoke night at our friend Jessica's.


At Whitney's wedding 4(!) years ago. She's married to a great guy, Clint, who's in medical school now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happiness Project: Friendships

A few months ago, I shared my thoughts on the book The Happiness Project. I've been thinking off and on ever since about what happiness resolutions I should make in my own life.

One area that I really want to concentrate on is friendships. I am not one of those people that needs a lot of friends; I have always been content with having a few, very close friends. But, I've felt like things have been a little lacking in the friendship department ever since we moved to Illinois. Now, don't get me wrong, I do have several wonderful friends here, and there are a lot of nice, smart, fun people at church. But, I feel like I don't have that one special friend—someone I can talk to about anything for hours, someone I can call any time without worrying I'll bug them, someone who "gets" me.

I have been fortunate enough throughout my life that those types of friendships have just fallen into my lap. But that hasn't happened this time. I'm not sure what it is. Am I being too picky? Am I not trying hard enough? Am I just a complete dork? Just kidding about that last one. Kind of . . . I realize that it probably does become more difficult to make friends once you are out of school, but I know plenty of people who have best friends they met as an adult so it is possible.

After 2 years of throwing myself a little pity party, I've decided that I'm going to have to do my part to be more satisfied with my friendships. I came up with a couple of goals to help me:
  • Twice a month, I will initiate plans with friends. I am very guilty of waiting around for someone to call me. I am often reluctant to ask someone to do something, thinking the other person will say yes just to be nice. But, that's ridiculous, and I've got to get over that. If they don't want to hang out, it's their responsibility to say no. And, probably, there are other people like me just waiting for someone to call them, right?
  • Once a month, I will call one of my college friends. I'm pretty good about staying in touch with friends via e-mail, facebook, etc., but I think there's something different about a phone call. Any time I talk to one of my friends, I feel so much happier after I hang up. I'm not much of a "phone person," but I think once a month is something anyone should be able to handle.

Ok, everybody, hit me with your best friendship advice. How do you initiate a friendship? If a friendship doesn't immediately "click," how long do you keep trying? How do you keep up with friends from high school, college, etc?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

3 years

On Wednesday, Darby and I celebrated our third anniversary. I'm so grateful for another wonderful year together. Our initial transition into married life was smooth, and it has only continued to get better. The longer we are married, the more appreciative I am of all of the little routines and traditions that make up our life together. Obviously, we love taking trips and going out for special occasions, and so forth. But those aren't the norm. The norm is waking Darby up after I get out of the shower, him doing the dishes while I put away leftovers, rushing home after church to start our Sunday afternoon nap, trying to beat each other to the punch on "that's what she said" jokes, kissing Darby goodnight in the office while he works on homework, sitting on the couch playing Dr. Mario, eating way too much ice cream, admiring our work after our Saturday cleaning sessions, Darby coming to meet me in the garage to carry in the groceries, getting up at 5:30 a.m. to eat breakfast together before I go to work at 7, texting each other to say "I need some encouragement" and getting a response 30 seconds later, going to Starbucks to read, working out together, and saying "I love you" twenty times a day.

There's no one else I'd rather share life's little (and big) moments with. I am a blessed woman.


Monday, July 05, 2010

Florida!

We just got back from the second annual Hewitt/Wann 4th of July trip. Last year, we met our friends, Dylan and Andrea, in Nashville. This year, we decided to go to St. Petersburg, FL. The Wanns live in Georgia, so they were able to drive down. Next year, we'll go somewhere near us, like Chicago.

We had a wonderful time! We stayed in a cute little beach house in a town called Pass-a-Grille. We could easily walk to the beach, and our little section wasn't crowded at all. It was a fairly rainy weekend, but that didn't stop us from swimming, looking for shells, and going on a dolphin-watching boat ride. Thankfully, the rain let up long enough for an awesome fireworks show. And, of course, playing games, eating ice cream, and chatting don't depend at all on the weather. And, as you can see from Darby's forehead in the pictures below, we got more than enough sun. :) What you can't tell from the pictures are that my legs got burned completely unevenly. I was sitting cross-legged on the beach reading a book, so only the insides of my legs burned. It looks pretty strange.

Darby and Dylan goofing off in the water. This was the beach right next to our house.

See what I mean about Darby's forehead?

Andrea and Dylan. On the 4th, we grilled out on the porch of our house. We had yummy steak, potato salad, and corn.

Dolphins! About a third of the way through our dolphin boat tour, it started pouring. The lower deck of the boat was covered, but it was easiest to see the dolphins from the uncovered part, so we stood in the pouring rain for about 30 minutes. It was worth it to see the dolphins, but...

we ended up looking like this! The funniest thing was, when we got back to our car, which was parked on the now-deserted beach, we saw two dolphins swimming maybe 30 yards from shore! Oh, well, it was an adventure.

Another year, another great trip. It was so nice to just relax and spend time with our good friends. I wish we lived closer, but living far apart is a good excuse to take mini-vacations together!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Texas Trip: Part 3

We drove back to Waco late Sunday night. On Monday, mom took me to get a pedicure while Darby cleaned out his old bedroom. Tee-hee! That night, both sets of parents took us to Chuy's to celebrate our birthdays. Yummy. Afterward, we ate dessert and opened gifts at my parents' house. My mom made me an Oreo cheesecake, and Darby's mom made him an apple pie. I had a little of each. ;) I got a new wireless printer and Wii Fit for my birthday. They were shipped to our house, since we were flying. My printer came Wednesday, and I love it. I can't wait to get my Wii Fit!

On Tuesday, we headed to the airport---after a healthy breakfast of cheesecake and apple pie. It was such a wonderful, busy trip. I always wish we had more time to spend with everyone, but I'm so thankful that we were able to see so many friends and family.

Now, we're headed to Florida to meet up with some friends from ACU for the holiday weekend. Pictures to come. Have a happy 4th!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Texas Trip: Part 2

We left Dallas Saturday night and drove to my Aunt Lea's house in Abilene. On Sunday morning, we went to church at Westgate, where Darby and I attended for four years. It was wonderful to see everyone again. Darby and I have so many fond memories of Westgate.

After church, we went to lunch with the Ashlocks (our preacher, his wife, and their two kids). Darby and I absolutely love Rodney and Laura, and it was so great to catch up with them. We were close with the Ashlocks' daughter, Bonnie, when we were at Westgate. She's now going into her junior year of high school and is so beautiful and mature. It was fun to see how much she had grown up. All of the kids we knew had grown so much. It was crazy.

Rodney Ashlock, just before performing our wedding

The hostesses at my bridal shower at Westgate: Connie McSherry, Jackie Lee, Sherry Gumm, me, Laura Ashlock, Laura Carroll. I got to see most of these lovely ladies at church on Sunday.

After lunch, Rodney took us on a tour of the new welcome center at ACU. It was beautiful! And, I got to see several people that I had worked with in Student Life and other various on-campus jobs I had as a student. Seeing all of the new students brought back so many good memories. I, of course, got mistaken for an in-coming freshman. Sigh...

Sunday afternoon, I had a chance to chat with my good friend Laura for several hours. It's the longest time we've had face-to-face since I moved, but it still wasn't enough. We could talk for days and probably never run out of things to say. I'm so blessed to have her as a friend. We just "get" each other. I really wish we lived in the same town.

Right before going back to Waco, we went to dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousin Robert. I had no idea Rob was going to be in town, so that was a fun surprise. He's moving to New York to go to school in a couple of weeks, and I'm so excited for him. My aunt Lea has always been so generous with letting us stay at her house. (Darby stayed with her many weekends when I was a freshman at ACU.)

It was a crazy 24 hours, but totally worth it. I get so nostalgic when we go back to Abilene. I used to think that I would never want to live there. But now that we've been gone a couple of years, I think I would really enjoy moving back there. I don't know if it's a case of "the grass is always greener" or "you don't know what you've got till it's gone." I know things would be quite different if we lived there and weren't in college. But, it really is a special place. Everyone is connected to everyone somehow, and there are so many Christians! (There are probably more churches of Christ in Abilene than there are churches total in Champaign-Urbana.) Of course there are negatives, as well, but I really get a "warm, fuzzy" feeling when we go back to visit. I just wish it were closer to anything else, so we'd have more excuses to go out there.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Texas Trip: Part One

We flew down to Texas late Wednesday night. Darby's parents picked us up from DFW, and we drove to Waco. On Thursday, we went to our favorite used bookstore, ate out twice, and went to see Toy Story 3 (sooo cute!). Hannah came in Thursday night, so we went over to my parents' house to chat and play games. On Friday, Debby took us to see the recently-opened mammoth fossil site in Waco. It was pretty cool. All of our families ate lunch together, and then Darby and I headed up to Dallas.

We spent the night with my Grandma Katherine and Aunt Katina. Grandma made us a wonderful meal, as usual. On Saturday, we went to the wedding of a good friend of mine from ACU, Carolyn. She married a wonderful guy named Josh. It was a sweet ceremony, and, of course, she looked gorgeous. It was so fun to see all of the Fat Tuesday girls (minus Kalyn, who we all missed terribly!).

Emerald, Brittany, Carolyn, Erin, Me

Darby and Me

Afterwards, we all (minus Carolyn and Josh, of course) went to Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Yum! Em's daughter, Lily, who's 9 months old, joined us. She is such a little cutie! And so good-natured. She let everyone hold her and play with her and hardly fussed at all.

Lily and Darby

It was so good to see my Fat Tuesday girls. It's getting harder and harder to find time to see each other, what with grad school, jobs, babies, and out-of-state moves. But I hope we always make time to catch up. It's so fun to hear about everyone's lives and see how well everyone is doing. And if the reunion involves cheesecake, then all the better. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

25

I had a wonderful 25th birthday weekend. On Saturday night, we had a few of our friends over for pizza, cake, and games. I baked the cake and Darby frosted it. It was a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, garnished with Reese's. Darby really liked it, but the taste didn't live up to my expectations. It looked pretty, though!

Darby hard at work. He did an excellent job. He's a much better decorator than I am.

The finished product

We played Catch Phrase and had a wonderful time laughing and talking for hours. We are very blessed to have these friends. We're all in our mid-20s, have been married between one and three years, and are childless. Of course, we enjoy being friends with people who are older, younger, single, parents, etc. But there's something special about spending time with people who are in the same life stage.

The beautiful flowers Katy arranged for me.

On Sunday, my actual birthday, Darby took me out to lunch at Olive Garden. And I enjoyed birthday phone calls and cards from many friends and family. It was a wonderful birthday weekend. And Darby and I get to celebrate both our birthdays with our parents when we're at home this week, so the fun isn't over yet!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We had a great time with my parents this weekend. They got in on Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning, Dad and Darby took the train to Chicago for the Blues Festival. I had to work, so Mom and I drove up later that evening. We got pizza at Pizzeria Uno (meh) and then walked down to the lake. Mom and I put our feet in the water but immediately regretted it when we had to walk back to our hotel in wet, sandy sandals. :)

On Saturday morning, we got up and ate breakfast at the West Egg Cafe. I had strawberry banana pancakes...yum! While the guys went and listened to more blues, Mom took me shopping! We went to an outlet mall that had an Ann Taylor Factory Store, so I was in heaven. I don't know at what point you're too old for your mom to buy you clothes, but I'm glad I'm not there yet!

For my dad's 50th birthday a few weeks ago, I gave him a certificate for a homemade birthday dinner. I gave him several choices for entree, sides, and dessert, and he could pick his favorites. So on Sunday I made the meal. He chose prosciutto and fontina-stuffed chicken, bacon-wrapped grean beans, grilled corn (which actually ended up being oven-roasted because I ran out of propane), and cherry-o cream cheese pie. I forgot to take a picture of the meal, but here's Mom and Dad eating their pie.

I was sad that I didn't get to be at home to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday, so I was glad we could do something while he was here. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful parents who take time to visit (and pay for everything when they do) and to have a wonderful husband who gets along with family (sometimes better than I do!).

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Little fun, big fun

I cannot believe it's already June! It seriously feels like 2010 just started. This summer has been so fun already. Even though Darby and I both work every day, it feels like we have a lot more free time. It's nice to be able to do stuff in the evenings without Darby having to worry about homework. We're enjoying the small pleasures of summer:
  • Grilling (hot dogs, corn on the cob, chicken, s'mores)
  • Eating at Custard Cup (although, really this is a whenever they're open thing, not a summer thing, but we do sit outside in the summer!)
  • Watching the church softball team
  • Tuesday night game nights with the Basyes and the Jumpers. Now that LOST is over (don't even get me started on the finale), the group of us that used to watch together gets together to hang out.
  • Taking walks. A couple of weeks ago, we walked to the farmer's market and back (about a 4-mile round trip). There are few things that give me more satisfaction than walking somewhere. I enjoy walking anyway, but when you have a specific destination, it's even better.

And, we have quite a few big things to look forward to this summer as well:

  • My parents are coming up tomorrow and we're going to Chicago for the weekend. Dad and Darby are going to the Blues Festival, and Mom and I are going to shop. Woo-hoo!
  • At the end of June, Darby and I are going to Texas for my friend Carolyn's wedding. While we're down there, we're going to see as many friends and family as possible. Should be fun!
  • On the 4th of July weekend, we're going to St. Petersburg, FL, with our friends from ACU, Dylan and Andrea. We've rented a beach house, and I'm so pumped! If there's oil on the beach, oh well. We'll still have fun hanging out, eating at restaurants, etc.
  • In August, Darby is a groomsman in his friend Ben's wedding in Hot Springs, AR. They've rented a lakehouse for all the attendants and spouses to stay in for the weekend. Nice!

And, of course, I have a real summer for the first time in a long time. My last day of full-time work is next Friday. I've made a list of projects I'd like to get done during my free time. Hopefully, this will keep me motivated not to spend all day watching TV. It will be nice to have a break before I start school in the fall. I have a feeling it's going to be a teensy bit difficult for me to get back in the swing of things after several years of no studying. But, I'm super excited!

P. S. Thanks for the advice on my last post. I knew you guys would come through. I forgot to mention that I do wear Olay moisturizer with SPF 15 every day. I'm all about the sun protection. The general consenus seems to be that makeup is the only way to brighten skin. I might try some bronzer. We'll see. Darby is not a fan of make-up, and while I don't think he has the ultimate say over how I look, I do try to respect his preferences. He's only really seen me wear fairly heavy makeup (prom, weddings, etc.), though, so I think he might be surprised by how natural makeup can look. I'll start slowly. ;)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Beauty Advice

Ok, as most of you know, I'm not much of a "product" girl. I don't wear makeup, use only a blowdryer and round brush on my hair, and can be ready in 20 minutes if I don't eat breakfast. But lately, I've been thinking I might need to add to my regimen. It seems that 25 might be the age when your skin starts to go downhill. Or maybe that's just me? I have been noticing a lot of wrinkles on my forehead and an especially deep crease between my eyes (from squinting). Darby says I'm crazy, but I swear, they were not there two years ago. Of course, I still get mistaken for a high-schooler quite often, so they must not be that noticeable.

But, besides the wrinkles, my skin has just seemed dull, for lack of a better word. I drink a lot of water, so I don't think that's the problem, although I do have very dry skin naturally. Do any of you have recommendations for moisturizers, exfoliators, masks, etc? I'm still hoping to avoid make-up for a while longer. But maybe there are some skincare products I should try? Help, please!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This week, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is the story of one family's attempt to eat only locally grown produce and meat for a year. It was entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking. Kingsolver definitely has a political agenda, as evidenced in this and other books, so I took some of the information with a grain of salt. However, overall, I think she made some very good points. I have always been very skeptical about organic produce. It is so expensive, and it's unclear to me how much it actually differs from other produce. Well, turns out my skepticism was somewhat founded. "Organic" food from large, national companies is very loosely regulated and often not substantially different from other produce.

Which is one reason Kingsolver advocates locally-grown food and/or maintaining a personal garden. When you know the farmer, you can be sure that his or her products are actually organic and that the workers are fairly paid. Another big concern of Kingsolver's is reducing fuel consumption. Each item in a typical American meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. The number of calories expended in producing, packaging, shipping, and refrigerating food can often be hundreds of times the calories available in the food itself. Some of this is understandable for foods that don't grow well in the Northern hemisphere, for example. But, the U.S. imports 1.1 million pounds of potatoes and exports 1.4 million pounds. That seems a little ridiculous, even to a non-tree hugger like myself.

The information about cattle and chicken farming was particularly disturbing. Animals are often forced to live in tiny cages, eating their own excrement and the by-products of their own kind. This greatly increases risk of disease, especially mad cow disease. The UK now tests 100% of its cattle for mad cow. The U.S. tests less than one-half of one percent. Yikes.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with this information. I try very hard to keep our grocery budget low, and the prices at our farmer's market seem high to me. But, I could probably cut out some other items in order to afford more local produce and perhaps some grass-fed beef or free-range eggs. I could not rely solely on locally-grown produce, though. First of all, Illinois' growing season is fairly short. Second, I could not give up tropical fruits like bananas or pineapple completely. I will definitely look into the issues raised by this book more (in some less-biased sources) and take some baby steps toward changing our food habits.

If you're interested in gardening, cooking, or where your food comes from, I highly recommend this book. While I think sometimes it leans toward "the sky is falling" thinking, (the author predicts near-starvation conditions in the not-too-distant future due to the lack of biodiversity and fuel shortages), it does present a great case for growing your own food, eating more whole foods, and supporting small farmers. It also includes some good recipes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Random

Darby and I went out last night to celebrate him passing his qualifying exam and me getting into grad. school. We went to Jim Gould's, a nice restaurant in downtown Champaign. It was really good! We decided to get dressed up, even though it wasn't necessary. I wanted to wear my new dress I got on clearance at Ann Taylor Loft. I used the last of my gift card money from Christmas to get it. I believe that's the longest I've ever held on to a Christmas gift card; usually they're gone in 2 weeks! (Sorry for the fuzziness of the picture. It was underexposed, and I had to fix it manually, which makes it fuzzy; can't decide which is worse.)

I went and saw Letters to Juliet with my friend Megan yesterday morning (yeah, we went at 11:35 a.m.---we're that cool). It was really cute. Totally predictable, but who goes to a chick flick to be surprised?

Tonight is the LOST series finale. I've NEVER been this excited for a television show before. It is comparable to the excitement I had when the last Harry Potter book came out. I'm so nervous. What if it's not resolved satisfactorily? What if I still have questions that I'll never get answered? I don't know if I can handle it. I know Darby is probably happy it's ending. Every Tuesday night for the past 4 months, I've been rehashing the show with him for hours (sometimes days) afterward. He does not like to speculate like I do, so I get a lot of "uh-huh, hmmm, ok." It's probably better for both of our sanity that it's ending.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Goal Update

Well, with only one month to go, I'm pretty proud of my progress toward my goals. There are a few that probably aren't going to happen, but I definitely think I accomplished more things than if I hadn't written goals at all. And, I accomplished my most important goal (#4), so the rest are just icing on the cake. I think I'm going to do this every year. Below is an update on my progress. The ones I'm completely finished with are in bold.

  1. Take a cooking class. I'm not sure this is going to happen. I found a class that looked fun. But, it's $35 for one session. I don't know if I want to spend the money, and I certainly don't want to ask someone else to spend it, but I don't want to go alone.
  2. Bake one new recipe from each of my cookbooks. I only have one more to go!
  3. Learn two new songs on the piano. Well, this one has become "re-learn" two songs. I didn't realize how rusty I had gotten. Yikes!
  4. Decide once and for all if/when I'm going back to school and what I will study. Yay! This one is DONE! I am starting a Master's in Teaching ESL at the U of I in the fall. I've known for a little while (and most of you have also), but I didn't want to write about it until I had gotten everything squared away at work. I'm super excited (and a little nervous); I can't wait to be back in classes again. Remind me of that in six months when I'm stressed out and complaining.
  5. Read 5 books that I've owned for at least a year.
  6. Find a local charity to get involved with. I am going to volunteer at the Crisis Nursery, which provides emergency, short-term childcare to area families. I haven't started yet, b/c they want you to make a weekly commitment at the same time, and my schedule is about to change drastically.
  7. Take another workout class. I didn't do this because of time/money issues. But, I did start a strength-training routine on MWF mornings at home (in addition to our TuThS gym schedule).
  8. Start at least two more herbs. Sprouted basil, cilantro, and parsley from seed. Parsley's taking off; the others are a little slow. My chives miraculously came back to life after being outside all winter. And one of Darby's colleagues gave me a mint plant.
  9. Visit St. Louis. We're trying to save money, so this might not happen before June 20. We did go to Chicago twice, though!
  10. Devise and stick to a housekeeping schedule. We've been cleaning every weekend pretty faithfully since January. Darby and I have our assigned jobs, and it's working great.
  11. Have 3 "dinner parties" (with party defined as at least two other people besides me and Darby).
  12. Go camping/hiking. Not yet . . .
  13. Try 2 new restaurants.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recipes

I feel like I have been cooking constantly lately. Or, at least, the dishwasher has needed to be loaded and emptied constantly. Is it sad that with only two people we could seriously use two dishwashers?

I made these Fruit Bruschetta from Our Best Bites for my friend Megan's wedding shower. They were a big hit and very yummy. They are perfect for a wedding or baby shower. (Although Darby enjoyed the leftovers a lot, too; they're not just "chick food.")

As you might remember, I've been on a quest for the perfect homemade salsa for about a year. Well, I think I finally found it. It's this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. And the secret ingredient is Rotel. I never would have thought to add that, but it does give the salsa a nice kick without too much heat. I tweaked her recipe just a little. I added only one can of Rotel (because my food processor is not big enough for two), and I did drain some of the juice from the tomatoes first. You can always add the juice back in if the salsa is not the right consistency.

We've been enjoying the salsa with these taquitos from Our Best Bites. If you haven't noticed, I love Our Best Bites; it's probably my favorite food blog (and I read a ton). Every recipe I've tried from them has been delicious. They're usually simple enough to appeal to everyone and to make on a weeknight but unique enough to make for special occasions.

Have you made any good recipes lately? Please share. I have 300 online recipes bookmarked to try, but I'm always eager to add a few more. :)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Great expectations

So, I saved a lot of my textbooks from college---mainly literature anthologies. I wondered what was the point of selling them back to the bookstore for pennies on the dollar when I could keep them and own so many great works of literature. Well, for the past 3-1/2 years, they have sat on my bookshelf, unopened. I have moved them twice (and they're not light). Every time I walk by the bookshelf, I feel the burden of my own unmet expectations. Did I really think I would one day get the urge to reread "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" or "Measure for Measure"? I'm more likely to reach for Julie and Julia or Better Homes and Gardens than The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Who was I kidding? I also had the idea that one day my kids might need them for school. But then it occurred to me that by the time I have any kids in college, the books will be at least 25 years old. And I actually hope none of my kids want to follow in their mom's footsteps---better to be interested in science like their dad. (If their interest is English, I won't discourage them, but, let's face it, people who are interested in and talented at science are positioned much better for the job market.)

So, last night, I decided enough is enough. I'm going to get rid of these books and the guilt that goes along with them. I looked two of them up on Amazon's textbook buyback page. Sure enough, they would take them, and pay me $70! I'm now 20 lbs. lighter, $70 richer, and have a foot of extra space on my bookshelves to fill with "low-brow literature." Ahhhh...that feels better.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Anything to save a buck

This weekend, Darby and I went up to Chicago to visit my dad (who was there on business) and Darby's brother and sister-in-law (who, coincidentally, were vacationing there at the same time). My dad treated us to dinner on Friday night. (Giordano's pizza—yum! Our favorite Chicago pizza yet.) After we dropped him off at the airport Saturday morning, we had some time to kill before meeting Jeremy and Janice for dinner.

We didn't want to spend much money, so I looked around for free stuff and found out about the Chicago Botanic Garden. Admission is free, but parking is $20 per car! We decided we'd try to find somewhere else to park and walk in. We drove around Glencoe for a while until we saw a sign pointing in the direction of the entrance. We turned onto that street and decided to park at a school and walk from there. We walked and walked and walked, seeing no sign of the gardens. We then reached a street that I thought I remembered seeing online. So, we turned and walked and walked some more. Finally, we found the entrance. We had parked a little over a mile away! :)

The gardens were absolutely beautiful—lots of tulips and crabapple trees in bloom. After several hours of walking around, we were pretty tired, and we knew we still had the walk back to the car. (Did I mention I wasn't wearing tennis shoes?) We made it, though. We were planning to go to Evanston to walk around the Northwestern campus afterward. But my feet were hurting so much from the walk that we just ate lunch and then sat in a coffee shop and read the rest of the afternoon. I think it was worth it to save $20, but next time we plan something like that, I'll definitely wear tennis shoes.

After resting, we met Jeremy and Janice at Katerina's, a jazz club/restaurant, for dinner. Both the food and music were only so-so, but the ambience was good, and it was nice to get to spend a little time with J & J. We drove home late Saturday night. It was a tiring weekend, but a lot of fun. We are lucky to live near a fun city that people want to visit! I'm not sure we'd get near as many visitors (except our parents, of course!) if we lived in Idaho.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Third Eye Blind

For years, Darby and I have talked about how fun it would be to go to a concert together—the problem is, we don't really have the same taste in music. We finally decided that either Third Eye Blind or U2 would be enjoyable for both of us. U2 is super-expensive, so I figured that wasn't going to happen, and I hadn't heard of Third Eye Blind touring in years. A few months ago, I was listening to the radio and heard an ad for Third Eye Blind coming to town. I was so excited! They were playing at a small venue, so tickets were relatively cheap ($25). And since it was small, we were pretty close to the stage. It was awesome! I forgot to bring my camera, but concert pictures never turn out that great anyway. I figure I can always find a video on YouTube if I want to remember it.

The show brought back so many good memories. They played most of their very popular songs (except 10 Days Late—boo!). I remember listening to their first CD at my friend Melanie's house when it came out in 1997. At the time, it was very edgy, and we felt so cool listening to it. And, of course, true fans knew all the words to "Semi-Charmed Life," not just the radio version. I discovered the song "Wounded" when part of it was used in an anti-drug commercial (an irony that was lost on me until this concert). On the day of my high school graduation, I called my friend Desiree and blasted "Graduate" into the phone. Being a rule-following, naive, somewhat nerdy teenager, listening to alternative music was just about my only "rebellion" (well,
there was also my ill-fated relationship with a "skater" guy, but that's a story for another time...or never). :)

Unfortunately, Third Eye Blind is not as cool as they used to be. Most of the people Darby and I told about the concert laughed. This was very disheartening to me. They are one of the coolest bands I actually like; if they're not cool, I'm sunk. Darby told some of the students in his lab section (mostly freshmen and sophomores) about the show, and they looked at him blankly. He was telling me this, and I was like, "What?? I mean I know they were too little to remember the first CD, but their second CD, Blue, was also pretty popular, and that came out in 1999, so they would have been...7 or 8...ohhh..." Then I realized, it has begun. From here on out, it will only get worse. I'm going to be that old woman talking about stuff that no one remembers or cares about. I really did not expect this to start until age 40 or so. Oh, well. The show was really fun, so if going to it makes me an old loser, I'll just have to be ok with that.