Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Last vacation

Well here l am, drinking my coffee and watching the waves roll in. My husband is sitting quietly beside me reading his book. We are enjoying our final vacation till our little bundle of joy arrives. These are the moments I am going to miss as our family is beginning and these quiet moments are ending...or at least becoming more infrequent.

We are making the most of this time together. We have this nice little deck we have made our morning nest.

And a view of the ocean that can't be beat.

As we enter the next chapter of our lives, I know I will look back at this vacation with wonderful memories. Right now though, as the baby is kicking, I am also looking forward to the new.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Back To School

Fall is on it's way and I couldn't be more excited (apparently Beth couldn't be either). As the summer winds down I find myself in a familiar situation: Back to School.

When I graduated from my beloved St. Thomas I wasn't entirely sure where I wanted my career to go. In fact, the only thing I was positive about was that I was moving home to marry my sweetheart. So when my fellow college students preparing for graduation asked me what the next step was in my life I didn't have much to say about job prospects and career goals. Honestly, I wasn't sure! I seriously considered law school (hence the Political Science degree) but in the end there was something inside of me saying this wasn't the career I truly wanted to pursue. While I believe everyone has the capability to go after their dreams and succeed at any job I just didn't think a career in law would allow me the time and devotion necessary to be the type of wife and mother I wanted to be. Maybe for others but no, not for me. That being said, I've had many moments of frustration because in most other areas of my life I'm a "planner." I plan my week. I plan for the month. I fill up my calendar in advance! But when it came to my career I wound up feeling confused and perhaps like there was something wrong with me because I didn't know what to do next. Don't most people have these things planned? Don't they know where they want to end up 10 years from now? What career they want? WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?!! WAHHHH!!!!
Okay, simmer down.

And yet, a small, redeeming seed had been planted during my Junior of college. During my Business Ethnics course I spent some time studying and researching the field of Human Resources; needless to say it piqued my interest. It was too late to change majors. No way could I afford to add another major and stay a year longer. But this field had potential... I had potential. Fast forward two years and I find myself thoroughly delving into a career in Human Resources and loving it. Could I really have figured things out? Could I have been so lucky? And then I found it; a program from USD that would allow me to earn a Master of Science in Administration specializing in Human Resources (the heavens open up and angels start singing). For the first time in my life I feel like I am on the right career path and am 100% devoted to the purpose behind the work.

So here I am, headed back to school... and very excited! I also must admit I tend to get overly excited at the sight of new, shiny school supplies. I may or may not be going to Office Max tonight...

So wish me luck! I'm on a mission. And for the record, I've come to realize it's perfectly ok not to have everything figured out. Take everything one step at a time.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding Beauty In Your Body

Many of you know that I am 28 weeks pregnant and my body is ever changing and getting ever larger. Most women, when they get to this point of their pregnancy, feel like are just fat and uncomfortable. I see so many pregnant women out there who choose to cover up their enormous stomachs with baggy clothes when they get to this point. My question is, why? Being pregnant is one of the most beautiful, unique experiences a women can have. Why in today's society do we constantly obsess about being thin, even in points in our lives where being fat is perfectly natural, normal, and healthy?
Go to Google and search "painting and Venus" and images will come up of famous old paintings, all depicting a beautiful, curvy, woman...Venus...the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. It has only been the last few decades that pregnant women have felt the need to cover up their beautiful, plump bodies and I just don't understand it. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of the two piece swimsuit on a pregnant women, but showing off this wonderful time in your life should be encouraged!
As long as I can remember, I have always stopped and looked at the pregnancy photos on those photographer stands that are in the center of malls. They are always such beautiful images and I really wanted to have some taken when I was pregnant. When my friend Barb offered to take some pregnancy photos of me I accepted. The results were amazing!
My hubby and I with our hands on my belly
Truly, our first child, Gimzo
The best one of us together!
Yes my husband is a giant compared to me
Gizmo just loves the baby so far! Actually, I don't think she knows yet!
We are so happy to be having a little boy!
I love the silhouettes!
I am so lucky to have a friend who offered to take the photos and I am so happy with how all these images turned out! When I am eighty years old I will be able to look back on these photos and remember the special and miraculous moments of pregnancy. I think every women should take pregnancy photos. These photos not only show off the beauty of being pregnant, but they can really help a hormonal, emotional, insecure woman find beauty in your own body and preserve wonderful memories of this very special time.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moments of Clarity

Today was one of those days at work where you feel so busy you might forget to breathe! However, in the middle of the chaos I heard the quiet murmurs of the "Our Father" coming from one of the conference rooms. I had to stop right then and there and think about how cool it is that I get to witness and participate in things of this nature at work. I thank God for these moments and get the feeling all over again that making this career change was the best decision I ever made.
I am so blessed.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Girls' Weekend In...

Let me start by saying I am a very lucky woman. Some people spend years trying to find a group of women they completely connect with. Granted, I had to wait a few years but during my time at St. Thomas I found what I would call my girlfriend "soul mates." Ahh yes, it sounds so cheesy doesn't it? But I can't help but get all sentimental when I think about how fantastic these ladies are and what wonderful friends they have been. They are people that I completely respect and they make me want to be a better person. I am truly, truly blessed.

Once we graduated from college it was time to go our separate ways. We all left with the common (but perhaps, unspoken) understanding that no matter how far apart we are we will always make time to be together and to be there for each other. Fast forward to this Spring. We knew we needed to take a REAL Girls trip and seeing as Colleen is living in Cedarburg, WI we somehow settled on some time in Chicago. After countless emails and lots of planning we ended up with a fun-filled itinerary.

Here are a few of the trip highlights...

Al came up with the idea to have lunch at Frontera on our first day in Chicago. Now I had never heard of this restaurant or Rick Bayless but evidently this restaurant is a popular destination in Chi-town. Al called and made reservations for us a few weeks ahead and I'm so glad she came up with great lunch plans. We sipped ice cold margaritas and dined on gourmet Mexican dishes... it was heavenly! Give me a margarita and some fresh guacamole and I'm a happy girl. I'd definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Chi-town. It was a great way to start the trip.

Of course we HAD to take this picturesque opportunity by the Chicago River. This picture is definitely going into a frame and will be prominently displayed in my office!

Yes, yes more about food already! But let's face it: one of the best things about traveling is eating. Since we were in Chicago we wanted an "authentic" piece of deep dish pizza. We made our way to Gino's Pizzeria where it took them 1 HOUR to make the deep dish pizza pie. Although it was sweltering inside we had some delicious food and took our turn contributing to the graffitied walls and tables.

We had to spend some time at Navy Pier of course. While we were there we toured a beautiful stained glass museum (good idea, Co!), found a Jamba Juice, and rode the Ferris Wheel. We were also lucky to be there for the Chicago Air and Water Show. It was pretty cool to hear the Blue Angels in the background while walking around Chicago.

One of our favorite places was Millennium Park. It was EXTREMELY hot on Saturday so we took off our sandals and walked around in the Crown Fountain. I couldn't help but think what a great place this would be to bring your kids. There were so many children running around splashing in the water. It was a perfect way to cool off!

And who could forget our momentous trip to the Hershey's Store. We were all feeling a little sluggish that afternoon and it was just the pick up we (and by we, I mean Al) needed. I don't know if you've met my friend Al, but she LOVES chocolate. Yes a lot of people like chocolate but Al has an ongoing, serious and dare I say borderline criminal relationship with chocolate. Needless to say she enjoyed the store and we all got a good laugh out of it.

For our last night in Chicago we wanted to get dressed up and go out for a fancy dinner. We dined on delicious Italian food and shared Birthday tiramisu for Colleen & Anne's August birthdays. We also had the special treat of a retired Opera singer serenading our table. Who wouldn't love that? We also may or may not have taken some self-timed photos in the bathroom...

All in all I just can't believe how quickly the weekend flew by! We have so many memories to last us for a lifetime and I can't wait for the next Girls Trip. Love you Al, Anne & Colleen :)


Friday, August 20, 2010

My Pregnancy Experience

As many of you know I am pregnant, officially 7 months as of Wednesday.
Here is my little man below:
My entire life I have heard so many horror stories about being pregnant (mainly from my Mom) and I wanted to set the record straight, at least from my pregnancy point of view.
I have been lucky enough to have a pretty easy pregnancy. I went into the pregnancy being a very healthy person. I work out regularly, watch what I eat, do not have any known medical conditions (high BP, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc), and maintain a very healthy weight. My experience with pregnancy is probably very different from most women, but I really feel going into the pregnancy being as healthy as possible has helped it be an easy process for me. So in giving that background, I decided to hit on a couple complaints that are commonly heard throughout pregnancy and the truth about what I really experienced.

morning sickness
Never had it! That's right, I am one of the lucky women out there that had zero morning sickness. My mom had it horribly so I figured that when my turn came along I would be much the same, but to my surprise I wasn't! No foods in particularly have made me sick. I did have one night of sickness, but I am chalking that up the frozen meal we prepared. It just didn't smell right to me and the stomach pains were definitely associated with food poisoning. Other than that, the only nausea I felt is when I would let myself get hungry. When I wasn't pregnant and use to get hungry I would get that shaky, low sugar feeling. When I became pregnant it more turned into a "I might get sick" feeling and then I would eat something and it would go away.

sleepy-time girl
Oh yes, had this one. It mainly hit me in the first trimester, which I think is normal. I was so tired all the time. This started happening right at the beginning and I found out I was pregnant pretty early on. The exhaustion continued until about my 15th week and then all of sudden I felt like all of my missing energy had returned. However, as I have gotten further along, sleeping has become more difficult at night. I am woken up periodically with kicks and it can be a little distracting. Plus, sleeping has become somewhat uncomfortable. You are suppose to try to sleep on your side to maintain blood flow and it becomes a little uncomfortable to flip side to side at night. At times I feel like I have to pick my stomach up and move it over. My energy level is still pretty high though, despite some interrupted sleep. I have finished up the kitchen, painted the front door, almost finished painting the nursery and many more things around the house. Of course, all of this could be chalked up to nesting.

food cravings
I was just getting ready to type that I haven't experienced this, but after a little thought...maybe I have. One day after working on the kitchen remodel I had this idea that an M&M blizzard sounded really good! I piled in my car with Gizmo and sat in line for 20 minutes at Dairy Queen. Normally I would have been pretty mad to have to sit in line for 20 minutes for ice cream, but when I got up to the window they gave me a BOGO card for the next visit due to my long wait. Not to shabby! And I haven't even used the card yet!
I have been eating an obscene amount of cereal. I never use to eat cereal, I was always an oatmeal type of girl. Now I find that when my hubby works evenings and I am alone for dinner, cereal has been my default supper. This last week I brought a gallon of milk to work and two boxes of cereal and I have almost finished both of them. I guess I can say that I have been craving cereal, which it could be worse.
We also have been eating fast food WAY too much since I have become pregnant. I don't think it's because I have been craving fast food, but more that it's just been too hot to cook at home or I am too tired to cook. Not to mention that having the kitchen under construction hasn't helped out with the cooking at home.

pregnancy brain
This almost started instantly . For those of you out there that have haven't heard of this phenomenon, it's when you become pregnant you begin to forget EVERYTHING! I mean EVERYTHING! I walk into a room and I can't figure out why I wanted to be in that room. At work, I will start doing a task, forget about it and then remember hours later. It has caused some mess ups in my job but everyone there has been pretty good at watching what I am doing and keeping me on task. I have learned to relax a little and not get mad at myself when I forget something. I set the timer more on my phone and write lots of notes!

mood swings
I think no matter what, mood swings are bound to happen with pregnancy. There are so many hormones racing through your body and everything is changing so fast. Plus with the onset of pregnancy brain, irritation is at an all high level. I have tried to keep my mood swings under wraps, but I know I have had some bad days. It's hard to always keep a happy mood when you excessively tired, always hungry, not sleeping, growing out of your clothes, gaining weight, and then thinking about how your life will change forever! You just take your mood one step at a time and try to laugh off your occasional blow ups you might have.

Ouch! As I type this section I smack my knee on the desk drawer! Last night when getting up to use the bathroom I walked into the door, stubbed my toe, hit the toilet paper holder, and almost fell face first into the toilet! I found that toilet paper holder half way across the bathroom. How did it fly so far? With the changing size of my body I have found that I trip over things, walk into walls, and lose my balance all the time. It's very difficult to keep you center gravity when you have this huge belly protruding out. The most noticeable time I can feel my clumsiness is during yoga class. I use to be one of the best! My balance was superb and I could do the tree pose so much longer then most of the class. Alas though, my balance has suffered. I still attend yoga because I really believe that without it I would be ten times clumsier and it's great exercise while pregnant.

running to the restroom
Due to my history of bladder and kidney issues, I have conditioned myself to always be a frequent "goer" to prevent future infections. Ask my friends who hiked the Great Wall of China with me. I was the only girl and when I had to "go" all the time it really slowed them down! When I found out I was pregnant I was like "Great! How much more is going to happen?" To my surprise, I don't seem to go more then I did before. I mean I still have to head off frequently and get up in the middle of the night, but I did that before. I have a feeling though, as I get much larger in these next 12 weeks that my story might change.

getting curves
J.Lo watch out because you have some competition! Well, maybe not quite yet. I have gained about 27 pounds now and I can tell it has hit in all the right areas. Most of the weight gain, other then the my belly, has taken place on the top. I am sure it's nature's plan to prepare me for the fun time of breast feeding. Most women get excited about this part, but I am really not a fan. I liked not having anything up there. Now there is just more that gets in the way. I have gained some weight around my hips and in my face and I am hoping this will all fall off once the baby is born. For those of you who see me regularly, you can probably see all the weight gain from the picture below.

And the last phenomenon of pregnancy, nesting! Oh yes, this has kicked in full steam! I keep thinking of all the tasks we need to accomplish before our baby arrives. I have been working almost everyday on the walls of the nursery. Last night I applied the second coat of paint and now all I need to do is to hang the chair rail back up. I keep thinking of all the closets, desks, dressers, and cupboards I need to organize before the baby is here. It seems as I type this the list is getting longer and longer. I think phenomenon is very common in the last weeks of pregnancy because reality sets in that once the baby is here, doing this stuff will probably be quite impossible. Good thing that I feel great right now because if I didn't I don't know how all of this would get accomplished.

Well, that is the end of my pregnancy experience. I always tell people that I love being pregnant. I get to eat what I want and people love it when you get fatter! In all seriousness though, I do like being pregnant. I like the big belly, the baby movements, and the excitement you experience through this time. I just keep hoping that my next pregnancy will be as easy as this one!


Making A Simple Floral Centerpiece

In my pursuit to decorate my kitchen, I have decided to go with a somewhat of a Tuscan theme. Not the normal red Tuscan, but more of an antique white Tuscan. The other day I was having my weekly thrift store visit when I saw this vase for 99 cents! I thought PERFECT! It fits my theme in the kitchen, but now what should I put in it?
I have never been a fan of fake flowers, but as I have learned while decorating my house, there are some really nice fake flowers out there that look great! Also, Hobby Lobby sells dried plants near the flower section and I just love the natural look that these provide. So to balance out my somewhat 'distaste' for fake flowers I like combining dried plants with some fake flowers. The result can be a little color to the lovely natural look that the dried plants provide.

I found this nice dried plant combination, below. The white flowers are not natural, they look more like paper, but I just loved the combo of the reeds, woods, and paper flowers. The whole bundle was on sale for $5.99.
Beiges and browns can get boring, so I wanted to tie in some color to match this kitchen. These lovely blue flowers were in the 'fake flower' section (about $2 for each set). I thought a little blue would be just what i needed to make the centerpiece stand out just a little and tie into our blue walls.
When making you centerpiece, the most important thing is to make sure it functions in the space you are placing it. This centerpiece will go on the center of the table so I don't want it to be too tall because it will overpower the table. Using scissors and wire cutters, I trimmed down all the reeds and flowers.
The arrangement of the flowers is really up to you . Whatever you think looks fine. I arranged the centerpiece to have a little blue on each side to create some balance. I place the white flowers in the foreground to lighten up the dark reeds in the background.
Overall I think the centerpiece turned out great and adds just a little color to the kitchen.


Monday, August 16, 2010

How To: Paint Over Wallpaper

Ok, I admit it...I have performed one of the most deadliest sins in home renovation. I painted over my wallpaper. Now, I can't lie and say I haven't done this before because I did do this in the kitchen, but I have decided it really is truly the only way to get this house remodeled in a timely manor.

I started working on removing the wallpaper in the nursery a couple weeks ago. You might remember, the room looked like this.
This lovely brown "string" wallpaper covered the room. It just had to go! I couldn't paint directly over the wallpaper because the strings created too much texture. I began first by ripping all the strings off the walls and ended up with just the adhesive layer below the strings. It looked something like this:
With a steamer in one hand, a putty knife in the other I began removing the adhesive layer...slowly. I have mentioned before that the wallpaper in this house was applied directly to the drywall. When you are removing the paper, it tears your first layer of drywall. You get little tears everywhere that look like this:
Then when you use the steamer, if the wall gets too moist you end up scraping off the first layer of drywall with your putty knife. It's like there is no even point of where the paper will just come off easily. After about 10 hours spent on this room I had only about a 4 foot section of the wall removed, with tears and pealing all over the drywall.
At this point, I gave up. I mean at this rate our boy will be entering 1st grade before I get this stupid stuff removed. It was just so stuck to the wall! After venting my frustration to a coworker, he said his mom is an interior designer and they paint over the wallpaper all the time. Like I said at the beginning, I did painted over the wallpaper in the kitchen and I have always felt some "guilt" for doing this. You know what though, the kitchen turned out great so I figured why not...let's do it again!
Many people seem confused about where to start when painting over the wallpaper, so this is what I have done and it has worked in one room so far. Start out with removing all the loose wallpaper. Also, if you have a textured wallpaper, as I did with the strings, try to remove that layer as well. Next apply joint compound to all seems, areas where the loose wallpaper was removed, and any rips in the drywall. Your room should look something like this:
And this where I patched over the damaged drywall:
After your joint compound has dried (usually I wait overnight) then you need to sand it all down. I used this special sandpaper for drywall, it's more like a screen. It works great! Also, there is a special holder for this screen, but I couldn't find it so I just used my hand. Plus, I think it works better. I like to sand in a circular motion so that no lines appear in the joint compound. Sometimes, if you sand in one direction you will get these little lines from the screen and they do show up when you paint.
After this step you, the wall, and the room will be covered in white dust. It is very important to clean the room after this step. This will involve wiping down all the walls with a damp cloth and vacuuming the floor and baseboards. Painting over the dust on the walls will cause your primer to clump.
Next apply an oil-based primer. It is VERY important that it is oil-based. Regular primer that is water based could cause the wallpaper to release where you don't want it to! I use Kilz because the coverage is thick and they make the oil-based in an odorless form, which is great for me and the baby!
I painted this on with a 1/2" nap roller. I wanted to create some texture in the wall and cover-up any imperfections that might show up from the damaged drywall. You also might need to apply a second coat depending on how well it covered the joint compounded seams.
Once the primer has dried your room should look something like this and you are ready to paint!
Once you have your actual paint color on the walls you might notice some areas that didn't get sanded down as well and show some lines from the joint compound or possibly the wallpaper seams. Just apply more joint compound on those areas, sand it down, prime again, and paint your color over it and it should look nice and smooth.

Hope this saves some of you time on your home remodeling projects, I know it has on mine!


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Easy Crockpot Chicken Tacos

With the hot summer weather still going full steam, I try my hardest not to use my oven. This is a great slow cooker recipe that is actually pretty healthy for you. You could spice it up with a little cayenne pepper, cumin, and garlic or just eat it as it is. I love this recipe because it's fast and easy, and of course HEALTHY!!

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
32 ounces salsa (I usually use 2- 16 oz. jars, one hot and one medium spice)
1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans corn, drained
1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
flour tortilla (optional)
sour cream (optional)
guacamole (optional)
lettuce (optional)
tomato (optional)
cheese (optional)
salsa (optional)
  1. Place first four ingredients in crock pot.
  2. Cook on low 6-8 hours. (My crockpot cooks fast, so it's usually only 4 hours for me.)
  3. 30-60 minutes prior to serving, remove chicken. Take two forks and shred the chicken. Return to crock pot.
  4. When when mixture is warm use as filling inside tortillas or as a salad topper

The Skinny: Serves 4 @ 180 Calories not including tortillas or toppings


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