welcome ... enjoy yourself

Thursday, January 31, 2013

the book thief

"It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery..."

I finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak after a friend obsessively recommended it to me for several months (you know who you are).  She technically told me to listen to the audio book version, which I tried to do, but I ran out of time to listen to it before it was due back to the library.  One thing lead to another, and I read it in paper form.  You know how these things go.  ... Anyways ... 

What a heart wrenching, wonderful book this is.  Like you can see on the cover, this book technically falls into the Young Adult category.  But the book is told in such a way that it will please old, young, and medium adults alike.  Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, who lives with her foster family in a small German town during World War II.  As her world collapses around her (physically and metaphorically), Leisel learns to read for the first time and the new stories she finds  - and steals - help her survive.  I fell in love with her foul mouthed "Mama," her accordion playing "Papa," and her partner in crime Rudy.  A great read for anyone who feels that reading stories has at any time influenced - or even saved - your life. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

let's stay together

One of my top three sources of happiness is creating - specifically creating new paintings.  I have more time off with my new job, and I've been using that time to get back into a painting hobby.  I saw a simple song lyric painting on A Beautiful Mess and decided I need to shamelessly copy it.  I used the lyrics from mine and Paul's first song at our wedding: Let's Stay Together by Al Green (one of the best songs in the entire world).  Elsie from A Beautiful Mess said her painting only took her thirty minutes to complete; let's just say I took a bit longer to finish my painting.  But I enjoyed the process, and I love the finished product even more.  Can't wait to find a place to hang it up - and to do a pretty painting to pair with it. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

this calls for baked goods

Our car was broken into yesterday, and we lost our i-pod, car title, car manual, and insurance cards.  Not the best way to start off the week.  When something like this puts me in a really bad mood, I first try to think of a list of things I'm grateful for - trying to focus on all the things that are good about my day.  If I'm still feeling crappy (and I was last night), it's time for baked goods.  The taste of sugar, butter and chocolate, the smell of tasty things baking in the oven, the thrill of creating something, and even just getting myself off the couch - they're all instant mood boosters.  Add some Lady Gaga or other peppy music to the baking routine, and you've got the perfect cure for a crappy mood! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

make me smile monday

I'm starting a new feature at Finding Joy - just in time to fight off those mid-winter blues.  Because I'm usually lacking in the smiles department on Monday mornings, I assumed others might appreciate a little pick me up at the beginning of the week too.  So today I bring you the beginning of "make me smile Monday," and we'll start with daily affirmations from little Jessica.  

What are you liking today?  

Friday, January 25, 2013

what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Once I hit my mid-winter blahs, I start playing the "why should I get out of bed today?" game.  It's a fresh spin on my reluctant-to-get-out-of-bed-to-a-freezing-cold-morning routine.  To get myself out of bed, I pick one thing from my day that will be worth experiencing.  Just one.  And that is usually enough to get me moving.  Today it's looking forward to having the Milwaukee Jesuit Volunteers over for dinner and going to a Lakefront Brewery Tour with them.  Focusing on whatever little thing will be good about my day is much more effective than focusing on the warmth of my bed.  I remind myself that I can't have a variety of good experiences if I never get out of bed.  (Though I know there are some who may argue with me on that.)  

What got you out of bed this morning?  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

our guardian repair man

We learned last night that our bathroom lights, refrigerator, oven, toaster oven, microwave, dining room lights, bedroom lights, bedroom space heater, and broiler are all on the same circuit.  We also learned the hard way that this circuit is not happy if you have all of those things on at once.  Who would have thought are biggest energy users would all be connected?  It was poor timing for this lesson, as you may remember from my post yesterday that it was about -3 degrees outside for most of the day.  It didn't take long for our "yay, an adventure!" attitude to turn into "I should not be able to see my breath inside my house" attitude. 

Luckily we have a guardian repair man who came over late last night to examine our fuse box and get our heat back on.  When the heat finally started working again, it was 50 degrees in our bedroom.  5 - 0.  Luckily it started warming up, but I still slept in long underwear under several layers of blankets.  Thanks to our guardian repair man, we could tough out the temporary cold instead of having to trek over to the local Day's Inn to get a warm night sleep.  This definitely reminded me how lucky I am to have a warm house in the middle of the cold winter. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


As I write this post, the temperature is -3 degrees outside.  The high is expected to be 7 degrees.  The high.  It's never a good sign when the words "arctic blast" are included with the weather forecast.  I bundled up to walk Pedro this morning, but that didn't stop the inside of my noze temporarily freezing.  The first time that happened to me I was waiting for the El in Chicago, and I had no idea what was happening.  It's not painful, but it's definitely not something I enjoy experiencing on a regular basis.   Freezing body parts are not my cup of tea.  

When the temperature is this cold, I go into full hibernation mode.  Hibenating yesterday included a little painting and arts and crafts time.  I created these little winter decorations to brighten up a hallway in our apartment.  If we're going to be spending more time in our apartment, it might as well look pretty!  

What do you do to get through the cold winter months?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

our honeymoon photo album

Our anniversary-gift-trade-off was that Paul would plan our anniversary celebration, and I would put together our honeymoon photo album.  It worked out perfectly since we both got to work on something we really enjoy (Paul: planning, Me: making photo albums), and we benefited from both things as a couple. 

I used to be really into scrapbooking and made all my photo albums from printed pictures, pretty paper, creative designs and captions.  But since I've gotten more into digital photography, I haven't had the motivation to invest a lot of time or energy in scrapbooking.  I think that's just the way things work: passions change and motivations shift.  Luckily, I have the option of designing and ordering digital photo albums online.  I used a travel theme design and spent several hours choosing just the right lay out for my favorite pictures from our honeymoon to Quebec last June.   

I was so happy with how the book turned out.  If you've got pictures waiting around to be put into a book, you might want to consider using services from a company like Shutterfly or Blurb - BUT, I recommend waiting until their photo books are on sale before buying your photo album.  You can get a much better deal!

P.S. Shutterfly is having a 30% off sale on their photo albums through 1/23/13. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

everything is topsy turvy

Say hello to the current state of our bathroom...

and to our bathroom door (our old shower curtain... 

and to the first floor sink - which is that white square in the center - the one you can see through the hole in our bathroom floor!

As you can tell, our bathroom is undergoing a full makeover!  Which means that although we have to go to the bathroom guarded by nothing more than a plastic curtain - and although we have to impose on the generosity of friends for use of their shower facilities - we will soon have a beautiful new space!  

I remember loving these types of repairs as a kid (not that it happened very often at our house).  I loved the change to our regular space, and I loved the topsy-turviness that continued until the repairs were complete.  Having just a toilet in our bathroom would have probably been very exciting to me as a kid, though not quite so much as an adult.  Now I get annoyed by inconvenience and forget how priveldged I am to have the only major inconvenience in my life be a bathroom-in-progress.  So I'll channel the wonder and excitement of my childhood self while I make the track once again to a friend's shower.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

how to be a woman

There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?

Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers these questions and more in How To Be A Woman – following her from her terrible 13th birthday (‘I am 13 stone, have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me’) through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, TopShop, motherhood and beyond.

I read How To Be a Woman before Christmas and really enjoyed it.  Caitlin Moran is completely irreverent and absolutely hilarious.  There were many times reading this book - especially at the beginning - when I laughed out loud while reading in a public place.  Moran tackles all the typical female and feminist topics with her own personal spin.  While her feminist insights aren't completely groundbreaking, I believe her readable style and accessibility is.  Though Moran's vulgar and considers no topic off limits, I've still recommended her book to lots of friends and even bought a copy for my mom because I thought it was that important of a read.  Feminist and gender studies majors might not consider her book to be worthwhile, but I think it might be exactly what the feminist movement needs right now - someone fresh and humble and humorous. 

If you've read her book, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

brewcity bruisers

This weekend, my friends and I went to the Brewcity Bruiser's first roller derby bout of the season.  A friend introduced me to the sport last season, and I have been hooked on their games ever since.  The bouts - or games - are surprising in two ways: 1) there is much less blood and broken bones than you might imagine and 2) the skaters are much more skillful than you would expect.  So don't let the crazy nicknames and fish-net tights fool you, those bruisers are tough, and they have amazing athleticism and endurance.  

The events are wonderfully laid back which allows you to feel closer to the action in the same way you might connect in a different way with high school or college sports than you do professional sports.  None of the players, refs, or announcers are paid, so you know that everybody is there because they have a passion for what they do. 

I always leave the bouts in a very "GIRL POWER!" kind of mood, which to me is worth the price of admission (getting pizza downtown before the games is also a perk).  My friend was so inspired by the bouts last year that she actually joined one of the training camps and has started getting really into the sport.  While I don't think that I'm ready to buy myself some skates, I was thinking about buying season tickets.  Not sure if it's still possible, but I know for sure I will be at the bout next month!

Friday, January 11, 2013

today i'm thankful for

Today I had a bad case of woke-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed.  I did a gratitude post to help remind myself that while everyday might not be good, there's something good in every day.  

Having a beautiful Art Museum in my city (see above) ... homemade Chai lattes ... looking forward to the first roller derby game of the season ... new coworkers who make me feel at home ... renewed motivation and passion for my work ... planning our trip to Europe ... the beagle who looks just like Pedro at the beginning of this video ... weekends at home ... having the resources to buy new shoes and new clothes ... the opportunities a new year brings ... having time to paint ... making new plans for this blog ... audio books ... a mild winter (knock on wood)
And I'm feeling a little better already.  What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

we can go anywhere we want

A few weeks ago, Paul and I reviewed our budget and realized we could afford the trip to Europe we've been wanting to take for about five years.  We started planning the trip last night, and I am SO EXCITED.  In May, we'll be travelling to Iceland, London, and Paris.  CAN'T WAIT. 

* I received a box of these Scott Albrecht letterpress postcards for Christmas.  I love all the sayings and fonts.  I recommend checking out his work!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

first anniversary recap

For our anniversary, Paul surprised with dinner and an overnight stay at County Clare, one of our favorite restaurants in Milwaukee.  We had been wanting to check out their inn, and I was so excited when the directions Paul gave me took me right to their front door.  So let me repeat that - he gave me directions to a secret location which turned out to be the inn we would be staying at overnight!  Yes, I know, I have a wonderfully romantic husband.  But don't tell him I revealed that secret.  

Dinner was delicious as always, and I loved the suite we stayed at in the Inn. 

After breakfast at County Clare, we visited the Milwaukee Art Museum and had lunch at the museum's Cafe Calatrava. Their menu changes with every new visiting exhibit.  I had a delicious salad made with greens purchased from my favorite urban farm Growing Power.  

It was a great celebration of a great first year together!   

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

trip to the asian grocery store

I've always been a fan of international grocery stores.  One of my favorite stores is Pacific Produce, a large Asian grocery store in Milwaukee.  We took a trip there this weekend and stocked up on super affordable sauces and curry pastes.  Which means there are some tasty meals in our future.  Tasty, tasty.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

happy first anniversary

Photo by Christine LeGrand
One year ago today I married the love of my life.  The past 366 days flew by surprisingly fast.  We've been through many ups and downs this year, and - though it sounds cheesy to say - they were all made a little sweeter experiencing them as husband and wife.  Something really has solidified and deepened between us this year, and I feel us becoming closer as a couple and growing as a family.  Hope this is the first of many anniversaries to come on our adventure together. 

We also share an anniversary date with my sister Libby's birthday.  Love that sister of mine - and her total flexibility in having us get married on her birthday!  Best maid of honor ever!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

the little things

Confession: I'm a bit of an office supply geek.  I jokingly told my new supervisor that one of my favorite parts of this new job were the multi-colored binder dividers.  She responded "It's the little things."  I completely agree with her.  Sometimes the littlest thing like colorful dividers can make your day a little bit brighter.  Recognizing when this happens is the real challenge.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

grandma's owls

Before my grandpa passed away, each family member picked out a few special things to remember my grandpa and grandma by.  I chose these little hand painted owls that stood on my grandma's china cabinet, a main fixture in my grandparents' dining room.  Now they sit on one of our bookshelves in a spot where I can see them daily.  It's a little thing that reminds me daily of my grandparents.  

After I picked out the owls I was surprised by these salt and pepper shakers on Anthropologie's website:

Looks like my grandma was ahead of her time.  Or was in her time, and we're just going backwards.  With cool pieces like this on the market, my little owls might be the start of a new collection.  Which is something my grandma would have loved.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

welcome to work

Today was my first day at the new job.  This sign plus two welcome cards were waiting for me in my new office.  Can you say good coworkers?  I knew it was going to take a lot to match the kindness and the sense community of my old coworkers, but I think they'll get pretty close.  I felt right at home and am so excited for this next step in my professional life. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

happy new year!

Hope you have lots of joy in 2013!  I was talking to a family friend who reads Finding Joy, and she said she's started to keep a notebook of daily joys.  I thought that was such a great idea; I'm thinking about doing it myself this year. 

My first New Year's resolution is to figure out how to pack all my clothes and Christmas presents into my suitcases for my flight home today.  Could be my biggest challenge of the whole year.