Friday, June 26, 2009

Fab Friday: Suspended....

Pending our move. I am surrounded by boxes, trash bags, packing paper, and tape. I think we're pretty well on schedule, but ask me again tomorrow and Sunday. I may laugh, I may cry - we'll see.

Think good thoughts for us. We will need them.

A vision of Monday......

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Thank You to the Thank You Note

Thank you note, you are one of my favorite things. I secretly enjoy writing you, and certainly enjoy receiving you. You can be simple or complex, long-winded or succinct, but thank you note - you are always appreciated.

It saddens me that you are waning in popularity, thank you note. People think you can be easily replaced by the email, the phone call, or the verbal flourish, and while these are all decent and thoughtful gestures, none are your equal.

Taking the time to grasp pen in hand and apply it to your fine, unlined, medium stock body.... nothing can match the non-verbal cues this gives! This simple act says "I have good manners", "Politesse makes the world go 'round", and "Your gift means at least 44 cents to me".

Thank you note, Real Simple has extolled your virtues in the past, and although I cannot locate the exact article written about you, I do recall some of the finer points of your assemblage, all of which have helped me to refine my own passion for you.
  1. Specifically state what the gift is. "Thank you so much for the lovely chartreuse vase."
  2. Make a kind, yet general statement. "It was so thoughtful of you to remember my birthday."
  3. Say something nice about it - even if you dislike it. "I can't wait to fill it with my favorite purple hydrangea blossoms and place it on the mantel."
  4. Incorporate the gift givers into your note. "John and I are looking forward to having you and Steve over for dinner again soon. We had so much fun last week!"
  5. End sincerely, but appropriately. "All My Best, Anne"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fab Friday: June 19

Today is all about you, Des Moines.

I love you, Des Moines, and I'm not ashamed to say it. Here's why:

  1. There's nothing wrong with being easy, and Des Moines, you are easy..... to get around. Your traffic is light and your streets are generally straight and long. Keep up the good work.

  2. You love your green spaces, Des Moines, and I love them too. You have an extensive choice of parks & lakes, each with their own charms. One of my favorites is Raccoon River.

  3. I don't mind your weather. Coming from the Pacific Northwest - where grey skies reign for 9 months of the year - I love your 4 seasons. Yes, you get cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but I think you're just making sure we're paying attention. If I could just get you to tone down the wind a bit....

  4. Splash pads! I'd never been to a park with a splash pad until I got to know you Des Moines. What a brilliant idea! Water stays warm, kids stay cool, Mommy stays (relatively) dry. Everybody's happy.

  5. Your people are so kind. I know, I know, you hear a lot about the "friendliness" of the Midwest. I heard the same about the South - only here it turned out to be true. Thank you Des Moines, it made the transition much easier.

  6. I do love to eat, but am not a fan of chain restaurants. It took a little while, but I found a few of your hidden gems. I will miss you El Rodeo, La Mie, Waveland Cafe, Palmer's, Carefree Patisserie, Django, Snookie's, Tsing Tsao, Ban Thai, and Cafe Su.

  7. You have a near-perfect location, Des Moines. 2 hours from Omaha, 3 hours from Kansas City, 4 hours from Minneapolis, 5 hours from Chicago, 6 hours from Madison. Your choice of weekend getaways, just a few short hours away.

  8. I have enjoyed your downtown Farmer's Market. Not too big, not too small, and it's a great mix of food, music, and shopping. I can get my sweet fix, choose some fresh basil, and stock up on reclaimed wood birdhouses - all in one place.

  9. You have a great zoo. A nice size, not too expensive, cute little train ride. I recommend it.

  10. I LOVE your airport. I can connect anywhere I need to go, it's a total walk time of 5 minutes from terminal to terminal, and my max wait time at security was 15 minutes - during Christmas!

Des Moines, let's not say good-bye. How about "Until we meet again....."



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A List of 10: Moving Madness

1. Start early. Time will get away from you. Even just one box a day for a month is a tremendous head start.

2. Declutter. I am a clutter queen, and I am NOT proud to say that. I am actually really embarrassed at some of the things I have recently found in my efforts to declutter and reorganize. 10 year old paycheck stubs with my social security number on them? Yep! Tax returns from 1998? You Betcha! Lease from 5 apartments ago? Check! But not any more. Thanks to my handy shredder, I am now about 10 lbs. lighter on paperwork. Declutter: The Sequel can be found under #7.

3. Make multiple reservations. I made our first truck reservation the week we found out where we were moving. I've made 2 more since then -but currently have just one locked in. I recommend multiple reservations because the prices fluctuate tremendously. For the same weekend, same truck, prices have ranged from a low of $500 to a high of $893. Wow! I don't know about you, but I can think of MANY things to spend $393 on instead of an already-overpriced truck rental.

4. Stock up on supplies. You will need more than you think. Wouldn't you rather have too much packing tape on hand than have to run to Wal-Mart at 11pm the night before your move? Oh yeah - and good luck finding boxes at 2am! Sharpies, tape dispenser, and packing paper are all indispensable for moving (newsprint is dirty & leaves smears on my clean glasses). If you want to get fancy (or smart), I also recommend going to U-Haul and buying the special dish boxes for packing glasses & dishware. I kept the little foam envelopes from our last move - Totally worth it.

5. Pack smart. Don't pick the biggest box and decide it's perfect for your Encyclopedia Britannica collection. And your grandmother's china doesn't belong in the same box as your dumbbells. One of my best moves? Pack a box of "necessary" items and make it the last thing you load into the truck. Include clean sheets, a few towels, toilet paper, shower curtain, soap, plastic cups, plates & silverware, and maybe some cleaning wipes. If all else fails, when you get to where you are going you can clean yourself up, eat takeout off a clean plate, and fall into bed.

6. Label, baby. You don't need a full description of what's in there. At a minimum, you should label it with the room it belongs in and a general description.

7. Reduce, reuse, recycle. I hate to throw good stuff away. So I have become BFF with craigslist. I find that my guilt/anxiety is greatly reduced if I can find a good home for my "treasures" - and get someone to pay me for them, too. The key to a good craigslist ad is to be descriptive and to POST PICTURES. I can't reiterate the last one enough. And what doesn't sell on CL ends up at my friendly neighborhood Goodwill. You're welcome.

8. Garbage bags can be your friend. This has a two-fold meaning. First, moving seems to generate a lot of trash. See Declutter above. Next, when appropriate, I do use garbage bags for moving. They are perfect for throw pillows, comforters, blankets, sheets, towels, and even some clothes. Slap a piece of masking tape on the bag to label what's in there & you're good to go. Yes, it's a little ghetto. But it works.

9. Call ahead. I once moved to LA. My roommate, who arrived a few days prior to me, was supposed to set up all the utilities for us. She did not. It took over two weeks to get a phone line turned on. Two weeks! Not so awesome when you work from home. In this age of everyone having a cell phone, that wouldn't be such a big deal.... unless you forget something critical like ELECTRICITY. Sitting in a hot, dark house for 3+ days is not my idea of a good time.

10. Never underestimate the power of help. Do you want to spend two days lugging boxes up and down three flights of stairs? If so, feel free to be "independent" and do it on your own. But if you'd like to get that truck packed in 90 minutes, call for help.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Big J Update: June Edition

June is passing by with lightning speed, and I have to take a moment and record it or I will forget.

Our Big J is changing so much.

  • He has 2 more teeth (right side - upper & lower) & is cutting a molar on his lower right side. He wants to bite everything but is pretty gentle about it. Those poor gums must be aching, but he is retaining his sweet spirit - and drooling a lot.

  • He's eating a lot more and we've found that it's critical to give him plenty of time to eat. A new favorite is fresh cherries. If we keep this up, I may have to invest in a cherry pitter because it's really not that easy to cut the stone out.

  • In a few short weeks J has gone from crawling to cruising to walking while holding one finger & standing on his own (from the floor up). He's still discovering his center of gravity, but he is testing his boundaries and I know those first steps are coming soon.

Addendum: Since March he has gained 2.5 lbs. and grown 2 inches. Way to go J!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fab Friday: May 12

Whether you scoop it, paddle it, dollop it or spoon it, ice cream is a delicious little treat, and happens to be a favorite dessert in our household.

We eat it no matter the season, weather or temperature.
We all have varying favorites.

Mine are Mint Chocolate Chip or Cherry Garcia.

Big Daddy leans towards Rocky Road.

Big Sis loves plain Vanilla, but will occasionally delve into a bite of Strawberry.

And Big J? He loves whatever he's fed.

Despite our diverse favorites, the one thing that unites us in our ice cream delight is the Zyliss ice cream scoop.

I bought this sherbet-tinted beauty about a year ago, and it makes ice cream scooping a dream. Substantial in the hand, you know this scoop means business. If you plan on eating ice cream this summer - and who doesn't? - I recommend you spend the $9.99 and pick one up. I found mine at Dahl's, but Amazon carries them too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

10 Things I Will Not Miss About Apartment Living

  1. A furnace with the air intake vent in the second bedroom. It is LOUD.
  2. That the floor of the bathtubs is so creaky it sounds like you're going to fall through the neighbor's ceiling.
  3. Facing a busy street.
  4. An iced-over parking lot from November until March.
  5. Mirrored closet doors. My child has been mesmerized by her own reflection. But it was amusing to see her throw a fit and watch herself at the same time.
  6. Rental home carpet. Yuck.
  7. Downstairs neighbors who like to slam the front door. ALL THE TIME.
  8. Communal living. Not so great when you can't find a parking space on a Friday night & the neighbors decide to take up smoking just when I start leaving my windows open all evening.
  9. A weird layout in the living room. There was no way to set it up to enjoy the fireplace, use the TV, and have room to walk.
  10. Zero insulation in the walls. A good excuse to not do the dishes after 7 pm (baby bedtime), but really not conducive to family living.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Vacation Plans

Summer has crept up on me, and I can hardly believe the first week of June has come and gone. We are 3.5 weeks away from the big move, 5.5 weeks away from family coming to visit, and 9 weeks away from Big Daddy starting rotations.

With passports in hand, and a few short weeks of free time after we move, we started talking about taking a trip. Due to the scheduling of rotations, interviews in year 4 and the prospect of little free time between graduation and moving for residency, we decided it was now - or 2 1/2 to 3 years from now. We began by discussing a long weekend in Canada. This quickly evolved into day dreaming about more elaborate plans involving Disney World, Paris, or Mexico. Airfares are all over the place right now, but with the help of Kayak, we began to get serious.

On Tuesday I did a little more investigating and within a few hours I had plane tickets booked and inquiries in for several hotels. By Friday afternoon I had the big stuff taken care of.


Belize is a small country in Central America, south of Mexico, east of Guatemala, and snugged up on the Caribbean Sea. It was a British Colony, so it's an English-speaking country. Belize is primarily known for being a scuba-diving mecca, but also offers Mayan ruins, caving, mountain biking, bird watching, jungle tours, and more.

I've wanted to go to Belize since before we got married, and this is the first chance we've had to realistically make it happen. I was able to use airline miles to buy 2 of the 3 tickets we needed. We're going during the low season (HOT and HUMID), so everything is a little less expensive, and I was able to find good deals on our hotels.

We'll spend 3 days on the beach at Mata Rocks Resort on Ambergris Caye, then 4 days at Chaa Creek Jungle Lodge near the Maya Mountains.

I'm looking forward to hanging out here:

Doing some of this:

Trekking through this:

And seeing this:

6 weeks and 2 days to go! (not that I am counting down or anything....) And yes, the kids are coming with us!

The end of Spring Soccer

Today was the last day of Spring Soccer. Although Big Sis was never overly-enthusiastic about playing, I think she did enjoy it. Memories of this season include:
  • Wild weather. From cold, windy and rainy to sunny and nearly perfect, those Purple Lollipops played through all kinds of weather.
  • Missing socks. I don't know why, but we had the worst time maintaining the whereabouts of her soccer socks. This resulted in a weekly shakedown of the house, which rarely resulted in victory.
  • A real-life experience with "sideline sports rage". We had just finished a game, and a parent from the opposing team laid into that week's coach (from their own team). He was being rude & aggressive, and Big Daddy stepped in to defend her. This enraged the parent in question, who proceeded to actually go nose-to-nose with Big Daddy and tell him that he wanted to "Go". In the end, the situation was diffused and no punches were thrown, but it was a tense few minutes.
  • A realization that soccer can be fun! Not sure she'll willingly sign up for the Fall season, but I think we can talk her into it again - especially after she scored 3 goals in the last game!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fab Friday: June 5

One of our favorite summer time destinations in Des Moines is Snookie's Malt Shop. Located at 1810 Beaver Ave. (Beaver & 41st), near Drake University, Snookies is our go-to spot for after dinner treats. It's been around for about 30 years, and one visit will tell you why.

Soft-serve ice cream is the menu's staple, and all creations are built on your choice of chocolate or vanilla. You can get all the basics here - a soft serve cone (cake cone only) served plain, dipped, or rolled, and always topped with an animal cracker. They also have the usual malt shop fare: banana splits, shakes, malts, and even a hot dog or two.

We mostly go for the atmosphere. On a balmy summer evening, the neighborhood comes out in force - kids & dogs in tow. It's a great place to meet & greet or just enjoy the last rays of evening sun. It also doesn't hurt that a kid's cone is just a dollar!

It's nothing special, or fancy, it's just Snookies. Go get a little bit of Des Moines tonight.

PS - Just don't try to go in the winter. Snookie's is only open from mid-April to mid-September.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A list of 10 for Young Marrieds (without Children)

  1. Travel. It doesn’t matter if you like day trips, long weekends away, or months abroad. If you have the travel bug, indulge in it now when you can pack light and get a running start. Yes, Europe/ South America/ Alaska will still be there after you have kids and they are old enough to travel far. But it’s not going to be any cheaper or easier than right now. And PS - Disney World/ Disneyland DOES NOT count as “travel” when you are a young married. You are not 12 anymore.

  2. Get Cable. I know, there’s 600 channels and nothing on, but the channel surfing is so much more fun when you have more than six choices. Your budget may be tight, but it’s cheaper than going to the movies every weekend.

  3. Expand your Horizons. Take a class, join a book club, begin a hobby. Your SO may be your “whole world” but the world - and you - become a lot more interesting when you open your eyes a bit and take a look around.

  4. Get to Know Where You Live. You may be homesick, lonely, or shy, but getting to know your (new) hometown can be fun! Explore the parks, check out the Farmer’s Market, drive the freeways and travel down the back roads, and see what you find. Grab a travel book or do an online search – you might be surprised by the cool stuff that surrounds you.

  5. Be Impulsive. Book a weekend in a hotel and order every dessert on the menu from room service. Go out for a midnight supper. Buy that amazing dress you saw in the window. Skinny dip. Watch the sun rise from the top of Mt. Haleakala. Take the left fork instead of the right.

  6. Learn to Cook. No, you don’t need to attend Le Cordon Bleu, but you DO need to be able to whip together a decent meal once in a while. Ramen noodles do not count. One easy menu: Roasted chicken, creamy mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli. For dessert, make some brownies (from a box) & top them with vanilla ice cream. So easy – and good - even your mother-in-law might be impressed.

  7. Find Your Style. Personal style doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Whether you like to decorate your house, paint, or adorn yourself in denim and diamonds, style is personal and speaks volumes about you. Take the time to be introspective and be brutally honest about what does and doesn’t work for you. Magazines and the internet are two quick and easy ways to start getting a sense of your likes & dislikes. Once you get a feeling for your style, look around at how to make it work for you. IKEA, Target, Old Navy, H & M, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and the sale rack at your favorite store are all great places to find style and value. One caveat: Just because it is a “good deal” doesn’t make it right for you.

  8. Invest in your 401K. Retirement seems like a million years away, but putting your money to work now is the smartest thing you can do for yourself. You may think that you have no room in your budget, but start with just $5 a check. You – and your retirement villa in Italy - will appreciate it later.

  9. Take Care of Yourself. Floss. Take a walk once in a while. And wear sunscreen! You will thank me in about 15 years.

  10. Be Happy Right Where You Are. “Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.” ~Souza

Monday, June 1, 2009

Big J in May

Big Boy Haircut. Where did my Baby go??

Yes, I know it is June, but I shall still give you the May update.

He's eating & gaining weight. His last weight check had him up about a pound and a half, and that boy is feeling like a sack of bricks, so something is working. Still on the platinum formula, and both prescriptions. We discovered he loves cherries, mango, and fried rice, so now those are a regular part of his diet. He enjoys drinking through a straw, and has been known to imbibe chocolate milk, strawberry smoothie, and our signature lemonade/sprite mix.

He is cruising along the furniture, and will turn and walk from furniture to a person if you hold his hands. He has discovered that he can crawl and rub his head on the floor. I think this behavior is genetic (on his father's side of the family).

He is vocalizing more, and saying specific 'baby' words for what he wants. He is using his signing more regularly and spontaneously. He gives great hugs & kisses, is becoming more possessive of his toys, shows his anger if he doesn't get what he wants, and is an all around expressive kid. He is not tremendously outgoing, but is very engaging when he's in familiar surroundings. He is all boy, with a tremendous attraction to balls, trucks, and anything that makes a loud noise.