Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Happy

Merry Christmas!

via Pinterest @AmyDame

I hope you all get lots of reading done over the holidays. I am looking forward to my plane ride to finish a few I've been working on myself for awhile now. Cookie making, present wrapping, shopping, and decorating have been encroaching on my reading time as of late so I haven't added to the book list in awhile, but I'm hoping to pack my suitcase with five or six good books for my upcoming Christmas trip to Savannah. Knowing my husband, however, I will not have even one second to sit and read!

Stay tuned because I'll be posting again soon with a collection of top ten lists from 2011, including my top ten best books of 2011.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You'll Be Hooked

Have you seen Instagram yet? It's a (free!) photo app where you can share your iPhone photos, or really any photos you want to upload, in a series that your friends can follow. Get it here.

I love it so much! It really makes me notice all the photographic moments I have the opportunity to experience in everyday life. It also adds another fun dimension to what I know about my friends' and family members' lives.

Here are a few of my favorite photos that I've taken in the last few weeks. To see more, follow me @hbmcardle.
And, if you don't have an iPhone, it looks like you can still follow friends' Instagram feeds online via Webstagram.

Conversation #10

Me: I think I know why I had such a bad headache. Actually, never mind, too much information.
Him: (Nodding vigorously.)
Me: What in the world are you thinking I was going to say?
Him: I don't know, but if you are saying it is too much information...
Me: I think I am really offended right now.
Him: (Eyebrow cocked, side look.)
Me: (Muttering.) Fine. It's true.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Random Acts of Cookies

I love the idea of practicing Random Acts of Cookies.

This was my inspiration to tackle one of my goals on My Life List, to Take Baked Goods to a Nursing Home. There's a nursing home down the block from my house which always makes me a little sad because so many people there spend time sitting outside watching the traffic on Ridge. It's a pretty busy thoroughfare for cars in our neighborhood, but it always strikes me as a bit of a depressing view. It's certainly not a nursing home with a lovely view of the lake, though it does have a modest view of a park across the four lanes of traffic. I guess it's not as bad as it could be. 

Turns out the biggest hurdle is finding a place where it's actually possible to donate homemade food. Apparently if it's any place that is state regulated (which is probably all nursing homes), then you can't. It's a reasonable restriction of course. It means I'm going to have to get creative in order to achieve my life list goal. Going to have to think about this goal some more.

In the meantime, our block club (for which Nathan and I are officers) decided to volunteer at the local food pantry. It was a really great date night actually, and we're planning to head back again to bring by some things for the organization's clothes closet sometime in the next week or two. If you have one near you, I certainly recommend your trying it out.

I'll just have to practice my Random Acts of Cookies on other people who are unprotected by government health codes. Maybe I'll save that for the neighbors in those dull winter months that seem to be right around the corner after the holidays. I'll give people time to set their goals of losing weight and getting healthy in the new year and then, Bam! They'll find a plate of salted caramel brownies waiting eagerly at their front door. Hmm, that seems a bit un-neighborly, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Here!

My sister, Jessica, and me visiting Santa, probably 1984

I love this time of year not only for the days off from work, the Christmas cookies, and the smells of evergreen, but also because it's the time of year that everyone starts to share their best music of the year lists. This is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to great new and/or obscure music.

A few of my favorite lists that are free...
 The All Songs Considered, The Year in Music, 2011, List on NPR.

 Mighty Girl's 2012 Victory Mix  (Ok, this isn't really a best of 2011 list, but it's a great list anyway.)

 My friend Ben's the 2011 cuts list on Spotify.

And one that is completely worth the $0.99 it costs to buy the issue...(Which also gives you the right to download 31 songs, half of which are on my favorites-of-the-year list.)
 Paste's Best of 2011 Issue

I highly recommend that if you only have time to listen to one, you spring for that $.99 issue of Paste. The songs you can download make it more than worth it, I promise.

UPDATE: Also, this time of year is one that seems to encourage people to give a lot of good Christmas mp3s away for free. Check out the 25 Days of Free on Amazon and the weekly free songs on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Believe in Settling

Barricade by James Goodman via Flickr
 A few years ago I heard a This I Believe segment on NPR called, I think, A Marriage That's Good Enough. I remember being somewhat horrified at the time that the author of the essay so freely admitted that she had settled for her husband.

And yet. And yet.

Now I fully embrace that sentiment. Of course we settle. It's nothing so dramatic as settling for someone you don't love just because you don't want to be single anymore (which I certainly don't recommend because any "joy" in being paired up lessens dramatically when you're picking that partner's horrifyingly smelly sweaty clothes off of the floor or watching him clip his toenails near your pillow*).

Settling happens when you love a person who can't sit through a movie in the theater though you love going to movies. When you fully realize that there are quite a few guys out there who like hugging for more than 2 minutes before they go limp waiting for you to set them free from your embrace. Settling happens when he would like you run a marathon with him one day, and you guffaw in his face and say, "Not a chance in this lifetime, sucker!"

Sure, you could throw in the towel on your relationship and possibly find that guy or girl out there who matches your interests, personality, and all the rest so completely that he or she is your soulmate, but there's nothing to ensure that that person even exists. To be unwilling to settle for less than a perfect match means that you are also expecting that other person to be equally unwilling to settle, and, heads up, that may result in their being unwilling to settle for you.

So settling actually translates to being gentle to yourself. Realizing that you'll probably never again look like you did just out of college, figure out what career fulfills you, or run that marathon that you feel just a little guilty about not wanting anything to do with is okay when you embrace settling. You can settle for the imperfect and still be very very happy. And then you can grow to see those imperfections as reasons to love that person even more.

But not the toenail clippings. The toenail clippings will never ever ever ever be lovable. Ever.

*My own husband has not done this. To my knowledge.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Diary of a Visit from My Sister

Clockwise from top left: The festive lions at the Art Institute.
Chimney Cake photo from Chimney Cake Island;
Set of Pirates of Penzance;
Homemade pizza,
Emily nearly skating backward-this time on purpose!
Renegade Craft Fair poster from their website.
All other photos by me.
Wednesday afternoon arrival. Homemade dinner of Shrimp Fra Diavolo.

Thursday. Breakfast of crepes with spiced oranges. Lunch of el Cubana sandwiches at La Unica and dessert of a Chimney Cake at Chimney Cake Island. Emily heads downtown to shop, while I work from home all day. Post work/shopping WERQ class at the gym. Dinner at Nookies.

Friday. Crepes with spiced oranges again. Shopping at North Avenue. Meet Nathan for lunch at Heaven on Seventh. Shopping downtown. Dinner of grilled Mexican Skirt Steak. Dessert of homemade Peanut Buster Parfaits. 

Saturday. Cereal. Art Institute. Lunch at the Institute's cafe, discovery of goat cheese and pears as pizza topping. Yum! Train to Wicker Park to see Pirates of Penzance at the Chopin Theater. Shoe shopping. Buses home. Hang out with upstairs neighbor for dinner. Second dinner at friends' house in Andersonville.

Sunday. Cereal. Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale in Wicker Park. Return home to recreate the Art Institute pizza with goat cheese, red onion, and pears. Ice skating at Warren Park. Home to hot tea, biscotti, and Bananagrams.

Monday departure. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


If you haven't discovered Spoonflower yet, you are in for some lost time as you browse the ridiculous amount of awesome fabric that people have designed. Spoonflower is an amazing idea for retail, letting ordinary people design fabric and then making that fabric available for anyone else to purchase. Sure, the prices tend to be a little more than the fabric you find at Jo-Ann's or Hancock Fabrics, but these designs are usually a lot better than you find there too.

Left to Right: Roots of Art by Johanna Design, 2012 Tea Towel Calendar by PennyCandy, City in Colors by Nadja Petremand, Time Travel Map by jenimp
Left to Right: Roots of Art by Johanna Design, 2012 Tea Towel Calendar by PennyCandy, City in Colors by Nadja Petremand, Time Travel Map by jenimp

This week, they are running a fabric sale on fat quarters (2 for 1). In short this means that all of those cool designs are basically buy one get one free (for fat quarters only). Not only can you get some awesome fabrics, but you can get a whole, easy to complete, project because fat quarters are the perfect size to make into tea towels. I snapped up these four of my favorites to make my own tea towels* for the kitchen when it comes to that desperate winter boredom that sets in around January (as if I don't already have a long enough project list).

*If you too decide to make some tea towels, be sure to select linen-cotton canvas because quilting weight is not going to be at all absorbent as a towel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lucky Find

I have so many things I have been wanting to share that it's hard to decide where to start! I suppose the crafty Lucky Jackson of 365 Lucky Days is on my mind because I can't imagine getting a sewing project a day done over the holidays. I have spent a few weekend days tackling some fun sewing projects to give as gifts this year so I'm certainly feeling the spirit of craftiness. But she is amazing for tackling such a huge goal and for making such amazing sampler vignettes every single day.

I eagerly check in everyday to see her latest post. So glad to have found her so early in her year of crafts so I have this to look forward to for the next 10 months...

365 Lucky Days discovered via Eat Drink Chic

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to Live: Lesson 5

Artwork by Emily, photo from her Instagram stream, EmilyHampton
 Beyond setting a fashion example, my little sister sets an example on how to follow your dreams. It's easy to stick to the job that pays the bills, especially when the alternative involves moving across the country to a state where you don't know a soul, taking on more debt, and starting over as a student again, but she rejected her comfortable routine and motivated herself to make a huge life change with the end goal of doing what she loves.

I know myself enough to realize that I will probably never decide to jettison my paycheck in order to start a new career. My interests are fluid enough that I'm not certain I'd be able to settle on a dream job if I tried; it's likely that I will always find parts of my job that fulfill me and hobbies to make me happy, but I will always look to my sister's example to inspire me to know myself and be willing to make the sacrifices it takes to ensure my own happiness.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Live: Lesson 4

Clearly their sense of style they learned from me. (It was Nerd Day.)
 My sisters have both taught me a variety of things about life. Because of them, I know how to bring up something in such a way as to make someone think it was their idea, I know how to leverage guilt, and I know just how hard to bite in order not to draw blood. However, I don't think these are lessons they've taught me so much as allowed me to perfect. (If I'm being honest, I'm pretty sure I've been the teacher in all those circumstances.)

They have continued to teach me as we've reached adulthood. One of my sisters had to deal with a devastating loss a lot earlier than most. When most people are only thinking of their futures, she had to confront creating whole new dreams for her future. Her strength and bravery in building a new life inspire me every day. She didn't let her grief define her; instead, she has opened her heart up to even more people and experiences.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Live: Lesson 3

Picture by Erin
 I have made a few mistakes that I deeply regret, and nearly all of them have been the couple poor choices that ended up hurting the feelings of friends. One of these mistakes was how I treated my best friend, Erin, our senior year of high school. She was going through some stuff, and instead of supporting her, I was sarcastic and made jokes and was just an awful friend. But we never talked about it; I'm sure my detachment hurt her, but she never said and we both just sort of ignored it and headed off to our respective colleges, continuing to stay in touch and visit.

When I we got home from college the next summer, our friendship resumed, but the way I had treated her a year earlier weighed on me. When I apologized, Erin just said, "We can forget it. Thanks for apologizing." And that was it. It has never affected our relationship since. She has always been an amazing friend, never once holding that mistake against me.

Any time I deal with someone who has hurt me, I think of Erin's reaction, and I try to be as strong as she was in just letting it all go.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Live: Lesson 2

Books by Zeromusta via Flickr
    Every stressful event in my life has been survived because I was able to have my nose in a book. The week where I quit my job, signed the mortgage on our first home, moved, and started my new job, I read a book a day. My sister was visiting, and I vividly remember her sitting, bored, on a box in the middle of our empty living room as I said to her for the third or fourth time, "I just need a second to finish this chapter."
     It wasn't even a particularly good book, but it was the only way I could keep from freaking out about all the major life decisions I was in the midst of making.

     My mother, a librarian, gets credit for this survival strategy of mine. My childhood memories nearly all include a pile of books, acting out the plot of a book, or having imaginary conversations with the characters from my most recently read book. I (probably not so) secretly believed that my life would follow the same course as Anne of Green Gables' did, and found myself being attracted to the boys who tortured me with their disinterest and/or unavailability.

     Thanks to my mother, I can always make small talk with strangers (if I notice them over the top of the book I'm probably reading), I can survive even the absolute worst days at work (though it means bringing out the book over the lunch break), and I can attest to the fact that the book is always better than the movie.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Live: Lesson 1

Brown Butter Sauce in Bowl by Shanna Hatfield, Savvy Entertaining
The other night I was making what turned out to be an amazing dinner of pumpkin ravioli with sage and brown butter*, and as I stirred the butter, my mind wandered to the women who've taught me some pretty significant life lessons.

It's funny that it all began with the brown butter because it seems like an almost insignificant lesson in the whole scheme of life lessons, but it leads to all the other things I learned from the woman who taught me how to make it. I learned that you can make nearly anything better with the addition of brown butter from Patsy, the first woman boss I ever had who was the owner of a successful catering business in my hometown. I worked for her as she started her catering business and stayed with her as she grew it into a full-time job that kept the golf club (where her business came to be headquartered) in business far longer than than it deserved.

Not only was she incredibly knowledgeable about cooking, but she understood the business of cooking as well. Because of her quiet example, I saw how to handle stress and frustration and sexism without letting it destroy you or your business relationships with difficult people. I learned how to let go. Sometimes people let you down. Sometimes it's just not a good idea to put the extra hour into making all the potatoes in a dish look like mushrooms because only one person in the whole crowd will notice it. Sometimes the business you worked so hard to make successful is taking too much from you, and it's time to start over with something else. And you just need to let it go. Quietly.** Gracefully.** And without bitterness.**

*I could practically drink that stuff through a straw it's so good.
**Well, I said she set an example. I can't say I actually follow it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Love You, I Love You, I Love You, I Do

     I tell a lot of stories on here about my frustration with Nathan's understatement when it comes to the emotional portion of our relationship. It's true that he's not particularly verbal in expressing his love, but I've gotten pretty good at recognizing the things he does that show how deeply he must love me.

     Of course, there's the obvious: he married me. He's a man who dislikes being the center of attention (one of the reasons we work well together as I love attention) and is uncomfortable even watching a kissing scene in a movie, let alone being part of a public display affection. And yet he took part in a wedding ceremony filled with emotional moments, tears, and capped with a full on kiss in front of a photographer. And he didn't look tortured even once, not even during the extensive photograph session, which made him late to dinner.

     Another incident that truly proved the depth of his love happened on a trip to the East Coast a few years ago. It was when the airports had recently instituted the no liquids policy, and I had bought some jam in Cape Cod. It didn't even cross my mind that the jam was a gel that couldn't get through security and of course they stopped me and told me that I could check the bag and come back through. Nathan was already through so he headed to the gate while I went back to check that stupid bag (I wasn't about to throw out that ridiculous jam; it cost me a whole $7).
     For some reason, security took much longer the second time through, and I raced up just as they closed the door to the plane. I saw the pained look on Nathan's face as he watched and knew that he had been terribly tempted to leave me behind. But he hadn't, and he didn't say one word the rest of the very long day and night while all remaining flights of the day were delayed and/or cancelled due to storms (though he does bring it up rather often now that the incident is far in the past). We would have been home by 7PM, but with the missed flight and subsequent delays we didn't get home until 2AM. Now that is love.

    And even more recently he caved and agreed to be a part of a couple's Halloween costume, which is usually one of his least favorite things. I suspect he was secretly somewhat excited about it because he's a big fan of Plants v. Zombies, but that's just a hunch.
     So keep in mind that even as I'm giving him grief about his lack of sympathy and his dispassion, I know that he loves me, and I do (usually) notice the things he does that show it. I'm not letting him off the hook for the normal romantic stuff though. Perhaps he'll give in as we get older. I'm not counting on it because he is way more stubborn than I am.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Favorite Song

I cannot get enough of this song, Come Alive by Hanni El Khatib!!! It was a lovely birthday present when it finally arrived, and I've been listening to it ever since.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Good Fit

Tallnut, Grampa Zombie, Traffic Cone Zombie, Peashooter, and Sun from Plants v. Zombies

Recent Conversation #9

Lying in bed on Sunday night, I rolled over to face him.
Me: I love your family. Know why?
Him: No.
Me: I love that they are game to do something as nerdy as reenacting Plants v. Zombies in full costume. In public. That was so much fun.
Him: That's not nerdy.
Me: No? What about the fact that we did it three times with considerable more detail each time? And that we referred to the game for accuracy?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lazing About With a Good Book (or Two)

I spent the weekend reading though I should have been doing five or six other things, including lots and lots of laundry. Oh well, it was a delight to read outside in the fall sun, so I don't regret it for an instant, even as I sorted through my socks this morning to find the cleanest dirty pair to wear to work today. The week of cold and rainy has begun. It will be easy to focus on laundry now.

I read two lovely books this weekend that I thought to share.

The first one, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, many people have possibly already read. I think I just never bothered to read it because it seemed like it might have been overhyped. I got burned a few times with books that were fussed over as good book club books: The Jane Austen Book Club anyone? Yawn. This one came out around the same time, I think, and the title must have reminded me of the latter novel, so that's probably why I was never motivated to pick it up. It was recommended to me by Nathan's mom and aunt when they were visiting last weekend, and I'm so glad they mentioned it because it is wonderful. It is one of those books full of characters that float along beside you even after you've finished it. I rate a book particularly high if I actually truly laugh out loud while reading it. Read this one. Really, do.

The second one, The Tenth Gift, was still an enjoyable story though it was a bit more uneven. I think I liked it mostly because I found the mix of histories on embroidery and pirating that the plot contained to be fascinating. The book included a present day storyline in addition to a historical story of barbary pirates kidnapping people from Cornwall to sell as slaves in Morocco. I suppose if I had read another novel involving the historic connection between Cornwall and Morocco I may have been somewhat disappointed in the weaknesses of this novel's plot, but since I haven't, those were far overshadowed by the historical details for me. If I read it again, I think I would put it at the same "mildly disappointing" point on the scale as "The Lovely Bones." Loved most of it, but there were just one or two elements that I couldn't get on board with. Still, I certainly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Twisting the Knob

 from "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman" by Margaret Drabble

      Looking round the polished table at their faces-at thin, grey, beaky Maurice, at tiny old James Hanney, at brisk young smoothy Chris Bailey, at two-faced Tom (son of one of the powers), at all the rest of them-she found that she disliked them fairly intensely.
     This is odd, she said to herself...This is very odd.
     And she thought, What has happened to me is that some little bit of mechanism in me has broken. There used to be...a little knob that one twisted until these people came into focus as nice, harmless, well-meaning people. And it's broken, it won't twist any more.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to twist that knob all too often these days...Hmm, I think that means I should start doing more yoga.

*I have no idea where I got this image. I've had it saved in my images file under "Crank it to 11" for ages. If it's yours, let me know, and I'll credit you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Workout

aka Thoughts from the Midst of my Hip-Hop Workout Class

I have reached a sad point in my life in which I learn new dance moves and think to myself, "Ooh, I can't wait to show these off at the next wedding I attend." Hmm, I'm at the even sadder point in my life where I learn my dance moves from a gym class.

Somehow I just cannot pull off the "I'm a bad mofo" facial expression needed to sell this hand gesture. I don't look scary at all. If anything, perhaps a tad bit constipated.

My white girl moves in their natural habitat.
I may have the whitest moves out of everyone in my class. I think it's because I can't get rid of the smile. It would help if I didn't have a wall of mirrors in front of me showing me what I look like as I "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle it" and "throw my hands up" and "shake it in my jeans."

Oh, I'm way behind. I think I need to stop picturing doing these moves outside of this room. I usually forget them immediately after this class anyway.

Oh hey, am I actually doing the dance from Run the World (Girls)? Yes! I am. Wait, nope, lost it. Yes, that's it. Got it. Nope, lost it again. Now I've finally got it down; I'm keeping up. Oh nuts, the song's over.

I think gym instructors everywhere must have clapped and cheered when LMFAO's "I Workout" came out. Clearly it's this generation's "Let's Get Physical" for workout classes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Art I Can Actually Afford!

Discovering Chicago artist Kate Lewis recently got me sucked into the art buying world. I came across a bunch of paintings that I loved on UGallery, which then led me to Daily Paintworks. Do you know there are painters out there painting a new painting every day? Yes, and then they sell them. This is an amazing way to purchase original art for under $100!

Here are a few of my favorites from the UGallery:

Clockwise from top left: Zen by Alaina Sullivan; Victoria Harbor Evenings by Robert Holewinski, Meditation on Yellow by Lana Williams; Tiny Flowers by Kate Lewis; Sassy by Autumn Rose 

I don't think I'll be purchasing any of these anytime soon though because the smallest (and least expensive) was still $175. While I do love Kate Lewis' work, this is not my favorite of hers. Sadly those are all currently sold (I LOVED Half a Poppy Chair). I think I'm going to hold out for one that I just can't live without.

Perhaps there are more amateur painters on Daily Paintworks, but I've always believed that you should buy art that you love, not art that you think will increase in value. The art sold on this website is extremely affordable, and I found it easy to find lots of paintings I love.  Here are a few of my favorites:
 Clockwise from top left: Singer by Alex Zonis ; Figs and Plum 1 by Mary Bryson; Tansy by Susan Gutting; Reach for the Beach by Marcello Saolini; Colorful Acting by Kelvin Lei; and Fall Garden by Jean Nelson

I am tempted by any and all of these, and best of all, the most expensive one (Singer) is only about $150.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Self Analysis

With the infamous permed bangs of Grade 4.
Whenever anyone asks me about high school, I find myself describing it as awful. This is odd because I didn't feel particularly suppressed or bored by small town life, nor was I ever bullied to any great extent. In fact, I was moderately popular in high school; though I was not part of the "popular" crowd, I was what could be termed at the second tier of popularity, friends with many different groups in school and plenty to do on the weekend.

But no one was readier to graduate from high school than I; as my friends shed tears at graduation, I looked on dry-eyed and counted the minutes until I could escape them all. I was thrilled at the thought that I was going to a college hundreds of miles from all of them. They were heading off to a larger version of the high school we were leaving, but not I. I was going on an adventure.

This constituted a good hair day for me. (Fr. year)
I look back at high school and my first reaction is always to cringe and get that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was it because this was the time in my life where I felt completely awkward in my body? Not likely. I had permed bangs, braces, and glasses in middle school, so high school was a bit of an improvement over that horrendous look.

Was it because I was constantly dealing with the drama of rejection from a group of girls who were nearly as bad as the "Mean Girls?" Again, no. In third grade, my best friend in the whole world told me that she wasn't allowed to be my friend anymore if she wanted to be friends with the two wealthy popular girls in our class effectively severing our childhood friendship for good. So dealing with that was far worse than any "friend stuff" I ever experienced in high school.

I would call that a mane. (Jr. year)
And yet high school is the time of life I remember with a shudder and a knotted stomach. After a long time mulling these feelings over, I think it may be because high school was where I first felt truly different from many of my friends. I lived in a pretty conservative town with many pretty conservative people, and I don't think much like most of them. I don't believe that people choose to be gay or that you are any more dangerous if you had a different color skin. I love hummus and naan, and edamame. I ignore most fashion trends and buy vintage and classic looks, but...

BUT. And here it is. But I didn't know any of that yet. In high school, I didn't have gay friends (at least not ones who were anywhere near out) or know many people of color or other ethnicities. Our small town didn't have any particularly adventurous food options, and I hadn't really developed a personal style yet (I was just trying to wrestle my hair into a look that didn't resemble a mop or a poodle). In high school, all those personal feelings and beliefs were still swirling dimly through in me. Nothing had yet to solidify into a conviction. At that point in my life, I just felt like I didn't fit in. I didn't particularly understand why, let alone feel good about being different. And it wasn't until college that I actually got the chance to realize and embrace my beliefs.

So the reason I look back on high school with such rancor doesn't really have anything to do with the outside experiences I underwent there, but more with what was happening on the inside. I wasn't me yet, so every time I am reminded of high school I also get a shot of that feeling of being adrift and unsure. And as a gal who thrives on having a confident opinion on pretty much everything, it's hard to feel good about a time in my life where I didn't have an understanding of, let alone confidence in, my fledgling opinions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm in recovery mode after my sister's fabulous wedding this past weekend, and this song, Weightless by Courtney Jones, is just what I needed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why I Love Living in Chicago

It's a big city that often feels like a small town.  You can be anonymous if you want, but all it takes is a little friendliness and suddenly you know all of your neighbors the first night you move in.

We really take advantage of our summers.  Sure, they can be short, but no where else offers as much fun packed into so few months.  There's a festival every weekend, and no end of strange and fun activities to participate in (meatloaf cook-offs, protests, hipster versions of The Pirates of Penzance* and other odd plays, architectural boat tours, flashmobs, and segway tours,** to name but a few).

Beautiful beaches and gorgeous lakefront a mere 3 blocks from our door.

The Red Line has the most entertaining people watching I have ever experienced.  No where else can you experience political grand standing, Bible thumping preaching, frenzied gambling, drunken baseball fan debauchery, and the full gamete of weird outfits, hairdos, and accessories (stuffed bird perched on someone's shoulder, thong jeans, a cheek piercing) in only a few short stops.

A good mix of nationalities, cultures, values, and races.  Our neighborhood hosts people of every hue and nationality.  Within a small block radius, we can choose to eat Turkish, gourmet, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Greek, Chicago hot dogs, Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Italian.  It is so much easier to embrace differences and appreciate uniqueness when people become your friends and neighbors.

Unlike NYC, we have alleys to put our garbage in so it's not on the front curb.

Green space.  It seems as if nearly all of the city's residents truly appreciate plants and flowers.  As soon as the weather permits, people are digging in the dirt to plant gorgeous things in every available nook and cranny.  I have seen flowers planted in tires, bathtubs, and buckets.  Better yet, I've seen vacant lots turned into garden plots for the neighborhood to tend vegetables while it is waiting to be sold!  What a great deal between owner and residents!   

Environmental appreciation is growing here.  The recycling program is supported.  The city encourages (and subsidizes) its citizens to use rain barrels and compost bins (we have both).  There are many bike lanes, and it is easy to get anywhere in the city by bike, L, or bus.  In fact, most of the time it's far preferable to driving because it's usually faster, especially when you factor in finding-a-parking-spot time.

A lot of people complain about the long, cold winter (including my husband), but I don't mind it too much. The apocalyptic snowstorms don't happen every year, but when they do, you get days off of work and neighborhood snow shoveling parties.

*Which was awesome! Their outfits were truly odd and there was a girl playing a handsaw, people. WORTH IT!

**I don't care if these are common to other cities, it's still a ridiculous concept, especially when you see them wearing their neon orange safety vests as they motor around Millennium Park. Really? You can't just walk?

Photo of Downtown Chicago, by me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Random Facts Friday

Favorite food (right now): Ice Cream Snickers bars

Restaurant I Love: Roti (It's a small Chicago chain that is like a Mediterranean version of Chipotle. Soo good!)

Still Haven't Mastered: Working out everyday. Not sure that I've been trying particularly hard to achieve this goal lately though.

Hate: Being stuck in a cube on what might be some of the last perfect days of the summer.

Love against my will: The LC line at Kohl's. I totally don't want to buy anything that might somehow put money in Lauren Conrad's pocket, but darn it those clothes are super cute.

Latest Aggravation: Being in job official job announcement for the fourth month running. We've actually started wondering if they'll make an announcement before the end of the year. We're all doing the work of the new jobs already though, of course. I'm sure it's not deliberate, but they're certainly getting the work without having to pay the appropriate salaries.

Most ridiculous thing I have done recently: Got a spray tan. Stinky, but looks pretty good. I'm not orange, at least.

Most Recent Book I Read: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Thumbs up)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recent Conversation #8

Him: Um, I don't think I'm going to be able to wear the grey suit to your sister's wedding.
Me: Why?
Him: Because the cat threw up on it.
Me: What!? How did that happen to your GOOD SUIT?
Him: It must have been when it was lying on the bed.
Me: Why was it on the bed though?
Him: (Suspicious lack of an answer.) I could wear the black one instead?
Me: No, give it to me. I'll see if I can get it out.
Him: What shirt should I wear?
Me: How about your light blue one?
Him: But then it will be exactly what I wore to our wedding.
Me: Oh, good point. Okay, how about the white one?
Him: What's that?
Me: Argh! That's ring around the collar which happens when you don't clean your shirts every time you wear them. That's not gonna come out.
Him: Should I get rid of it?
Me: Yes, but now you don't have a shirt! Why are you only figuring this out the NIGHT BEFORE WE LEAVE?
Him: (Suspicious lack of an answer.)
Me: Okay, how about this blue shirt?
Him: But then it's like what I wore for our wedding.
Me: This is darker blue. Plus you're wearing a tie. And you'll be wearing the jacket. That's actually a completely different outfit. Are we good? Do you have shoes?
Him: At work. With my belt.
Me: ! Fine. Don't forget them or we'll have to buy some from Walmart for you. Again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Modesty is Not Among My Virtues

Here are those grand personality traits, talents, and characteristics I mentioned yesterday. I am limiting my list to a mere 10 to match my previous list, but please do not think that this covers all the lovely things about me.  Because it doesn't. I have great reserves of talents and general awesomeness, some of them well-known, some hidden. But not modesty. There are no hidden reserves of that. (A good friend suggested I list 31 in honor of my 31st birthday, and though I certainly could, it would be a very long post that might take a few months to publish.)

1. Empathy. (I am usually excellent at choosing the right words to say to someone. Usually because this characteristic is sometimes at odds with my lack of tact and inability to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes it's a case of saying the right thing AND THEN I KEEP TALKING which leads to somehow putting my foot in my mouth. This can tend to ruin the effect of those lovely words I just said.)

2. Self-Analyization. (Our couples therapist once looked at me in what I choose to characterize as awe, and said, "Wow, you analyze it all, don't you?" Yes. Yes, I do. And I'm usually right, which even she admitted.)

3. Humor. (I would say I am rather funny in typical conversation and in my writing, though it's true that I also have a particularly dirty mind. I think that comes from me not getting a joke in elementary school that caused the other kids to snicker. From then on I apparently made it my goal to see the dirty side of everything so as not to be left out ever again. This, in truth, has led to some awkward moments in business meetings where I am the only one holding in my snickers. Still, we can't go back. I, sadly, cannot undirty my mind. However, it does mean that I always get the joke. It also means that I nearly always have to explain that joke to my husband.)

4. Cooking. (I'm good at following a recipe, of course, but better than that, I've learned to throw things together to make something from scratch that tastes pretty freakin' fantastic. And better yet, I can create dishes from scratch that are reminiscent of a wide range of cultures; I'm not just handy with Italian, American, or Mexican flavours. Sure there are dishes that I'm not great at-still want to master Jambalaya-but most of my dishes turn out well.)

5. Reading (I'm a Reader, with a capital R. I love books, and a new book is always more interesting then the 50 I have on my book shelf waiting to be read. I read every word; I'm not one of those speed readers that you may have seen on early Saturday morning PBS. And still, even with reading every word, I can read a 600 page book in 5-6 hours.

6. Craftiness/Creativity. (I will pretty much try my hand at any craft teaching myself the basics. I am usually able to create something pretty great after only a few tries. I will tackle big projects, learning how to do it as I go along, which is how I came to reupholster our couch. This sometimes means, of course, that I only do some projects once because they're insane, but at least I can claim to have done it. My creativity comes in handy in other ways too; I can come up with solutions for fixing things around the house that are almost as good as the original, and I can find creative uses for all sorts of random thrift/antique store finds.)

7. Taste in Music. (I am pretty proud of this strength as anyone listening to my playlist at the Leisure Games this year would be sure to tell you. Under the influence of alcohol I may have repeated my claim to have good taste a few hundred times too many for people to fully believe it. Sadly, I'm relatively sure my playlist spoke for itself. My taste in music is eclectic and wide-ranging, helped in part by Paste Magazine (heard of Zee Avi, anyone?) and a friend who is a band manager (Knock Out by GD & TOP=pure awesome), but also because I listen to anything and everything I come across.)

8. Intelligence. (I solved that Chicken, Fox, and Grain in the Canoe puzzle in no time. Can you? Also, I know just enough about String Theory to be dangerous in a scientific conversation. My excellent memory and ability to problem solve does me wonders in all sorts of smartypants conversations and in winning every argument with my husband.)

9. Rhythm. (My fellow dance competition teammates from my third grade Hangin' Tough crew would likely be surprised to see this on my top ten list after the tears-mine-they suffered through as I failed again and again to grasp the simple routine, but when there's not a routine I am damn good at shakin' my moneymaker. I guess it took letting go of worrying about "not getting it" right away for me to be good at dancing. And guess what? I can do Zumba routines with the best of them. Wish I could remember that Hangin' Tough routine, I bet I'd kill it now.)

10. Passion. (I feel strongly about nearly everything. This, of course, makes me a good match for Nathan who feels passionately about few things more than red lights, chow mein noodles, and Steve Kerr. I laugh easily, cry freely, and get worked up about the injustices of the world, my husband, and my boss. I throw myself into activities and events wholeheartedly. I plan one heck of a party, and I certainly get credit for at least half the success of the annual McArdle Leisure Games. But more than that, I love wildly, with my whole heart and soul. I would do practically anything for anyone I love, and I believe I've done relatively well at showing them that.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Things at Which I Do Not Excel

Now that I am no longer 30, I think it is important to do a bit of self-analysis. I guess 30 was my milestone year to take stock. In so doing, I took a moment to comment on my faults and my strengths. Let's start with my weaknesses...

I'm going to limit it to ten today, so please do not feel the need to tell me I've left anything out.

1. Patience (From trying to tell Nathan how to play Plants v. Zombies to how he's not chopping the onions correctly-But seriously, those pieces have to be somewhat uniform if you want them to cook evenly, right?-my patience is, shall we say, lacking. Teaching was a career path I never even considered both to protect my own sanity and to prevent future generations from developing inferiority complexes and high therapy bills.)

2. Bossiness. (See above. At least I am aware that I am pushy. I am moderately good at biting my tongue when my advice is not taken. Only moderately though. It has taken years of work to at least ask Nathan first, "Can I make a suggestion?" I have FINALLY reached the point where I can keep it to myself half the time when he invariably says, "Nope." And this is progress. You're welcome, Nathan.)

3. Self-Control ("Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment." Unfortunately, my bridge is one of those precarious rope bridges with the large gaps that yawn above the great jaggedy rocks below.)

4. "Managing Up." (And pretty much all that other crap there is office jargon to describe. I should try to be better at this, but I just can't muster the interest. Some people appreciate this stance, but sadly, not those people who have ever been capable of furthering my career.)

5. Sending packages on time (Probably a record setter for the latest wedding gift ever mailed. I was super thrilled to have sent two baby gifts recently that actually arrived BEFORE the baby was born. However, sadly they went out in the same shipment as three or four other baby gifts that were to babies who are now at least 6 months old.)

6. Keeping my thoughts to myself. (I have a blog, so yeah, there's that. Also not good at disguising my facial expressions. Poker face, I have not. One of my co-workers is fantastic at this; I'm trying to learn from her example though it is a Mount Everest of a goal.)

7. Tact and Subtlety. (This has gotten me into enough awkward situations that I am well aware enough of this weakness to first AVOID the mess if at all possible. If it's not, I try to follow Nathan's example and talk less, get quieter, and not make any abrupt movements. It seems to work for him in most instances though still not in arguments with me.)

8. Refraining from being over dramatic. (Sure, I'm a bit of a drama queen. I jump to conclusions and may occasionally throw things-pillows, not plates, of course-and I often pull the whole freak out before I think it through deal, and yes, I worry about EVERY possibility of a situation even the impossibilities. But it certainly doesn't help that Nathan is so low key that even my modest freak outs look ridiculously overblown.)

9. Modesty. (Sure, I excel at wearing underwear, but I'm not so good at keeping my proclamations in check concerning how awesome I am. I do like to congratulate myself publicly on my achievements. I'm not working to improve this trait. I think my husband needs these reminders in order to fully appreciate me. I like to think of this as self-marketing.)

10. Being positive. (Sure, my job might have been wildly frustrating this past year, but how many other fantastic things did I have going on that I was ignoring to focus on gnashing my teeth and wailing about how I was under-appreciated and never getting a promotion? I have a tendency to obsess, and I'm working on increasing noticing the positive, or at least trying not to say negatives aloud as often.)

Tomorrow, my good points. Of which I have decidedly more than ten (and is probably why people can usually put up with these faults.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chevrons are the New Stripes

Chevrons, which is usually used as a highbrow word for zigzags (though they're not exactly the same thing), are everywhere! Thought I'd do a little Photoshop practicing with some of my favorite finds.

1. Oversized Chevron Clutch, $28, Pieces by Jen
2. Ziggy Chair, $279, Urban Outfitters
3. Organic Chevron Bedding, $24-109, West Elm

4. International Concepts dress, $79, Macy's.
5. Note Card Set, $7.50, Wit and Whistle

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Anniversary Dinner Outfit

A Fancy Night Out

Fancy nights out happen so rarely for us that of course I've got an outfit planned. Who am I kidding? I've practically got the menu at North Pond memorized. I'm pretty sure that Nathan will be wearing shoes. Other than that, no guarantees on what he'll show up wearing.

Ain't She Sweet Dress, from Shabby Apple.
Citrus clutch, Hobo International, last year.
Boots, indigo by Clarks, last year.
Bracelet, vintage.
Necklace, by me.
Dolman Cardigan, American Eagle. (Not necessarily a great addition to the outfit, but I've been living in it, so I'm sure I'll wear it at some point tonight.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hello, My Name is Hanna, and I am a Font Junkie

I am not a graphic designer, which is what makes this confession even more necessary: I cannot stop downloading cool fonts. So far I haven't taken the step of actually paying for any fonts, which would probably put the whole situation right over the edge into an obsession.

The main issue is that I rarely get the opportunity to try out the awesome fonts I have added (and added and added) to my collection. So here I am, confessing my addiction. The first step is admitting you have a problem. And my problem is that I don't have any projects that require fun graphic fonts. (Not, of course, that I need to stop collecting them.)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Pompadour Numerals* by Andy Mangold

Marketing Script** by FontShop
Home Sweet Home*** by Ray Larabie

Ranger* by Evan Huwa

karabine.** by Jonathan Paquette

And here are all of the lovely sources:
*Selections 1, 4: Lost Type Co-op
**Selections 2, 5: Fonts2u
***Selections 3: My Fonts

Not mentioned, but equally great: The League of Moveable Type.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Runnin' Through My Head

Just discovered We Are Augustines, and they are amazing!

My favorite song so far is Chapel Song, but I suspect it's because I haven't stopped listening to it long enough to make it the whole way through any of their other songs yet.

They have a unique way of matching incredibly sad lyrics with catchy tunes. For the incredibly moving back story of the development of their album, watch this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Projects Go Wrong

I finished nearly all of my project's for my sister's upcoming wedding, and I realized this past weekend that I was bored. No longer could I tootle through my weekend content with a bike ride to the grocery store and some weeding. I needed a higher purpose. Okay, I suppose crafting is no where near a higher purpose, but reading a book on the porch wasn't cutting it for a whole day.

I turned to my trusty "to do" list, where I had written "Make bag" nearly a year ago when I had bought the pattern for said bag. I read through the instructions a few times, made sure I had all the materials I needed (and the list was wide-ranging and boded well what was to come. Snaps, large dowels, felt lining, buttons, d-rings...endless, right?)

Stay with me here, this may seem off topic, but we'll circle back to a point. I know that the 4-H materials natter on about how it teaches kids about responsibility, science, and loads of other malarky about "positive youth development," but besides requiring me to lie and cheat, (I'm sorry, no kid has that much project time with their parents that they can manage to complete not only their Fair project, but 6-7 other ridiculous projects that NO ONE WILL EVER SEE. You show me a kid in 4-H whose parent did 87% of the Fair project, and more than likely, I can show you a kid who got a Grand Champion ribbon. I did my own Fair projects I am proud to say, but I will admit to fabricating the completion of a diagram of all of the outfits in my closet and how they all fit together. Yeah, that is a real thing.) 4-H taught me one thing that has benefited me time and again. How to hold it together the fifth time you have to seam rip the same f'ing seam.

Don't get me wrong. Curse words were said. But, nothing was thrown, and I was able to refrain from ripping the fabric in half Incredible Hulk style. I count that a major victory, especially at midnight on Sunday when I discovered that due to poor pattern instructions I had sewn a section that wasn't supposed to be sewn causing my bag to be accessible through a mere inch opening when the dowels were in place.

Yeah, see that little 4-inch side seam in the picture on the left? That's not supposed to be sewn, making it so you can actually open the bag.

So thanks, 4-H. When I turned my bag right side out and realized I couldn't fit a damn thing in my overnight bag unless I was only planning to pack some important files and my iPad, you gave me the ability to whisper that f-bomb, fold the bag, place it gently on the sewing table, and head to bed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Yet Another Joke I Had to Explain to My Husband

Recent Conversation #7

Him: Why is someone writing on our bananas?
Me: Huh?
Him: It says someone's name.
Me: What? What does it say?
Him: It says "Hammock."
Me: Oh, babe. That's not a name.
Him: Well then what does it mean?
Me: What is it written on? What does it say? Put the two words together.
Him: Banana hammock?
Me: Really? You still don't get it?
Him: What the hell is that?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Love Looks Good On Everyone

What a lovely collection of vignettes by New York Magazine of some of the newly married couples in New York since gay marriage was legalized.

Did you know?
On July 24, 2011 when couples were actually allowed to begin marrying, the first same-sex couple in the state were married in Niagara Falls at midnight. Niagara Falls was lit in a rainbow for the first time in honor of the occasion.

I read these and have such a hard time fathoming how anyone can think that allowing same-sex couples to marry can do anything to damage marriage. More marriages based on deep love and years of commitment will only make the institution of marriage stronger and more meaningful.

All images by Spencer Heyfron
Article via Emily Scott via New York Magazine, "It's Official."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why I've Been MIA

My younger sister's bridal shower was this past weekend. We decided that her shower would have a nautical theme,* and I may have gone a bit overboard on my decoration projects.

I tackled homemade frosting and cupcakes that I topped with handmade international code flags of my sister and her husband-to-be's first and last initials (J, A, and H).

 I sewed international code flag buntings that said the couple's last name-to-be and the bride and groom's nicknames.

I made yellow and white tissue paper pom-poms to hang from the ceiling.

I sewed over 100 foot of crepe paper ruffle

My youngest sister made the book page banner (out of pages from an old copy of Little Women) that says "You float my boat."

I made tiny red, white, and blue paper buntings for the miniature origami boat regatta game we invented. (My mom made the 50 small origami boats.)

*Funny story, part of my gift to my sister was two WWII signal flags that I found on eBay. I initially bought them without realizing what they meant. After discovering that there was a different flag for each letter, I was first disappointed that I had given her two flags that stood for the letter "p" because that letter really doesn't have any significance at all. However, I later discovered that while the flag stood for the letter "p," it also means "About to Sail," which is so incredibly fitting for someone getting ready to get married! And better yet, two p's together mean, "Keep well clear of me" which will come in handy on all sorts of occasions after the wedding. I just love a multi-purpose gift, don't you?