Monday, June 8, 2009

Wow, do I suck or what?

I have been so bad. So unforgivably bad. For all of you who have actually been reading my blog...I'm sorry. I've let you down. But the truth is...I haven't crossed anything new off my list. It's been over a month and I've done nothing. It's completely unforgivable! 

So I'm going to mosey on down my list and see what I can get accomplished. I have a five-day vacation coming up and I'll have some free time to get stuff done. After looking my list, I've decided upon a few things I will accomplish during my vacation:

#3: Finish my purple skirt. It's almost done anyway.
#49: I will begin the Artist's Way creativity program.
#31 & #89: Will move towards accomplishing these goals by participating in our neighborhood yard sale. (It's not eBay, but money is money.) If you're reading this and you live in Pittsburgh, you better come! Lyman Street yard sale, multi-family, 8-2 on Saturday, June 13. Be there!
#98: Create a time capsule - a fun thing to do on my time off. 

I will report back on Monday to tell you all about how I accomplished my goals. Woohoo!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Reasons You Should Be Jealous of Where I Live

Another thing off the list - Vince and I camped out in the backyard on Friday night. We watched the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens and hung out with our dog Annie. We got up pretty early - around 6:30 - and went up to the bedroom to sleep a little more because it was pretty uncomfortable sleeping on the hard ground, especially for Vince.

I have decided to brag about my neighborhood, because this is my blog and want to! :) I was walking to the drugstore on this lovely 80 degree day and it occurred to me how fortunate I was to live where I do. So humor me, and listen to why I think you should be envious. :)

  • You can walk, in under ten minutes, to a drugstore, small grocery, gas station, ice cream stand, pub (where the bartender knows us), and food co-op. 
  • Deserving of its own point, you can walk, in five minutes, to the second-largest urban park in America.
  • We have four seasons: blooming flowers in spring; hot (but not too hot) summer days and warm summer nights, with swimming, camping, and outdoor opportunities everywhere; beautiful foliage and crisp, cool autumn days; and sledding, hot cocoa, beautiful white powdery snow in winter.
  • We grow the vegetable garden of your dreams - every variety of pepper and tomato, cucumbers, beans, peas, corn, broccoli, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, herbs, sunflowers...and more.
  • You can visit world-class museums, libraries, and theaters in under fifteen minutes.
  • You can attend professional baseball, football, and hockey games throughout the year.
  • You can enjoy the awareness that Pittsburgh has some of the longest, most unique history in America. Did you know that Lewis and Clark's journey really started here in Pittsburgh? Or that Gene Kelly grew up in a house a few blocks away? Or that some of the most famous zombie movies in history were filmed in Pittsburgh, earning it the title of "zombie central?"
  • Pittsburghers are genuinely nice people. Sometimes rough around the edges, but always willing to help. 
  • Pittsburgh has one of the best local/independent music scenes in the country.
  • Everywhere you look there is incredible natural scenery - three great rivers, hills and valleys, winding roads.
  • There are incredibly charismatic bridges (over 700) homes, architecture, and public art. I've never been to a city with so many great public murals.
Isn't this nice? I love Pittsburgh, and hope you'll be curious enough to come visit someday. It's a wonderfully unique city, beautiful, old juxtaposed with new, tradition combined with cutting edge. I really encourage you to visit Pittsburgh Skyline to get a real taste of what the city looks like. Thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring is coming!

Hello everyone, hope you are very well. I'm sorry for my long absence, but I sadly have not had much to update in the past few weeks. That being said, I don't think this blog has to be solely about completing items on my list. Isn't the spirit of 101 Things simply to improve your life, to live better? I think I can talk about anything that pertains to that subject. :)

The happiest part about life right now is that it's springtime. The weather is still cool most days, but it's so wonderful to see the flowers blooming, and to have fresh cut blossoms from our garden on the dining room table. I had yellow and white daffodils for Easter dinner, and now we have a beautiful combination of yellow daffodils, and red and yellow tulips. They make the whole house brighter. And, I'm excited to say that the lilacs started to bloom yesterday. That means the whole world will smell beautiful for a week or so. :) And last, on the subject of gardening, we started our seeds indoors in little plastic greenhouses. We are trying to grow every single plant in our garden from seeds this year. Tomatoes (three varieties), bell peppers, jalapenos, thyme, rosemary, lavender, basil, oregano, chives, parsley, cilantro, beans, peas, cucumbers, and lots of flowers, especially nasturtium and sunflowers. We have a ton of planting space in our yard, so we are growing everything we can. We already have raspberries, and we are possibly investigating blueberries and blackberries.

I have completed one item on my list, invest in a quality piece of jewelry, but I can't go into more detail than that at the moment. I will explain soon, I promise. :) Trust me, it's beautiful. If you really want to know, get in touch, and I will explain privately. 

In a bit of tragic news, my very determined effort to complete the Couch to 5K Running Program has failed for now. Isabel went on spring break for two weeks so I couldn't jog on the treadmill (or outside for that matter) like I had been. After the two week break I tried to pick it back up again, but it was so frustrating and exhausting that I quit. As the weather warms up I may try to jog outdoors before work so I can mark this big milestone off my list.

On May 2 I am flying down to Florida to visit my mom. I'll be there until the 5th, just a four-day weekend, but I am really excited about it. We have tickets to go see the musical Wicked, which I'm psyched about (I loved the book), and also some tentative plans to go to the San Sebastian Winery in St. Augustine. We love the free tour and generous sampling session (so what if we've gone a few times...) and then on nice days you can sit on the roof of the big building, where they have a bar with hors d'oeuvres. You can sip on their amazing wines (or have some sangria...mmmmm) while listening to live music and enjoying the incredible view of historic St. Augustine, the marshes, and the ocean beyond. It's a magical place. 

If you'd like me to send you a postcard from Florida, please e-mail me with your address, and any specific postcard requests. :) 

Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Welcome to April!

Hello, good morning! Or not so is absolutely rainy and dismal outside today. So, as you might have guessed, I completed my entire month without candy! Hurray! I have proven to myself and everyone else that I can live without my Number One Vice if the desire is strong enough. I took my photo with my prize...some Easter candy. :) I am really going to try and avoid eating so much candy from now on. There are other ways to satisfy a sweet tooth that don't destroy your teeth and spike your blood sugar.

I'm happy to say that things are back to normal at work again. I was pretty stressed out there for a while...Isabel was off school for TWO WEEKS for spring break (seriously, two weeks? I guess so all the rich kids can take their vacations on the Riviera?), and although she was exceptionally helpful and well-behaved, she still has many needs that are difficult to meet when a reckless 14-month old toddler is destroying the house Tasmanian Devil-style....especially when you are working 11...12 hours every day. The two week stress-fest ended with a truly horrifying incident that, sadly, I can't share with you, out of respect for the privacy of the family I work with. But trust me, it was the sort of thing that makes you sick to your stomach. In any case...all is well now, and I do want to add that despite my complaining, I really do like my job...most of the time. :)

So...what's next, you ask? 

I've started a small cross-stitch project! This one was on clearance at Michael's, and when it's finished, it'll show a goofy-looking woman holding a sign that says Smarty Pants. Yep, that's me. :) When I stay even a little bit focused, I can get quite a lot of this finished, and I think I can probably complete the whole thing in a few days of devoted work. It's pretty easy to cross-stitch while I'm watching movies or TV shows on my laptop, so that's probably what I'll do. Maybe watch Twilight for the 167 zillionth time. :)

I think I'd maybe also like to start thinking about my scrapbook of 101 things that make me happy. I think I'd like to compile a list first...I was thinking I'd maybe add a box to the side bar of the blog with my growing list of ideas for my scrapbook. Once I have enough ideas, I'll start photographing things and/or creating collages of some sort (which I think will work better for things like "the Twilight series," which will probably go into my list). So....if you have ideas for my list, or if you have things to say about my list, please leave me comments. :)

Olivia just went down for her nap, so I need to do a quick sweep of the house to clean up the mess she left, and then I need to go jog...I swear I'll finish the Couch to 5K Running Program one of these days... at least I haven't given up. Have a great day, everyone!

DISCLAIMER: These photos were taken before 9 in the morning, before I had finished my coffee, when it was raining buckets outside, at work, where it is completely futile to wear any makeup or style my hair. So don't judge me based on these horrible photos. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I continue to make headway!

Hiya! Thought I would pop in and update my progress on my 101 list. The month of March is nearly over, and I have managed to make it through the whole month with no candy...not an ounce of chocolate, no Skittles, nothing. It's been hard, but I try to circumvent my cravings by either dealing with them, or having something else sweet - I've had three or four relatively small servings of ice cream over the past month, and I also went to the drugstore and had an Icee. That's about it though...I've been pretty good. I was hoping that abstaining from candy would show an increase in my energy levels, but I haven't really noticed a difference. Unfortunately, I've been working more than usual this month, so that might be why I'm so tired. 

Today, I wrote my first author fan mail, the first of five required by my list. I sent it to Stephenie Meyer - to those who don't already know (which is probably no one), I am a big fan of the Twilight series. I know a lot of people identify the fans mainly as young teen girls (and they are a big chunk of the fan base), but there are lots of older fans, most notably a large group of women who call themselves Twilight Moms. And while I do definitely have my moments of minor swooning while reading about Edward Cullen, I mostly just love the story and all the characters and the world Stephenie Meyer created. She was a young mom, living at home, who had an amazing dream one night that morphed into the first Twilight book. So, you might understand why I'm inspired by this story... I want to write novels, and she was just a regular person who happened to have a great idea. So I wrote her a letter. And I'm pretty sure I'll never hear back, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't write anyway. So it's out in the mailbox.

I've read 23 of my 101 books so far, and that includes two rereadings of the Twilight series. At first I wasn't going to include the rereadings, but then I decided that there is something to be gained from multiple readings of a book, especially from a writer's perspective. So I think it's okay to include rereadings. It's still time spent with my nose in a book.

I also thought I'd throw in to my blog post here that I've now received postcards from 45 different countries, with the latest new card arriving from Lebanon on Monday!

As for what's new in my life...nothing. Things have been especially boring lately, and I'm kind of bummed about it. I haven't been able to go anywhere because of work, the weather has been frustratingly uncooperative, and I just feel like I need a little change or spontaneity in my life. I don't know how to get it though. 

I leave you with an incredibly funny a capella tribute to Star Wars. Totally random, I know. Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hello friends, we are all Irish today!

Of course, I actually am of Irish descent. My Dad has red hair and I am very fair-skinned with freckles. St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday in the US, a great day for parties, and if you think about it, a nice reminder that this country is such a mishmash of different cultures. It's really just another feast day for a saint, of which there are many, but because there are so many Irish in this country (and because the Irish throw such great parties...), everyone of every creed, color, race, and sex gets to enjoy the party today. And everyone wears green, which is my favorite color anyway. :)

At any rate, I went birdwatching on Sunday, and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. I expected to stay out for two hours, maybe, and found that I didn't return home for about four hours. I found a quiet mountain biking trail in Frick Park that
 had very little traffic, so I was able to see some nice birds, 15 species total, including four varieties of woodpecker. I've been talking to my dad about my adventure, and he's been advising me, and generally just seems really happy that I've decided to begin birdwatching again. It was nice to be outside and really focus on the natural environment around me. I didn't see any species of bird I hadn't already seen, but I did see a few I don't find on a regular basis, and I also honed my skills. Birdwatching requires stillness...birds tend to disappear when they know you're there, but if you are quiet and still for long enough, they'll return to their business. It was fun. And then I went home and Vince and I worked in the front garden. We planted spring bulbs (Stargazer lily and freesia) around our new tree along the sidewalk, and I cleared all the debris and detritus from the big garden in front of the house. All the flowers are coming up...we already have crocuses, and soon we'll have tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, peonies, azaleas...I can't wait. 

I have found my one red wine that I can drink anytime, thanks to our great neighbor Bob, who gave it to me as a gift on my birthday after recommending it highly. It's called Wyndham Estates Bin 555 Shiraz. It's under 10 dollars, can be found at the local liquor store, and is really very smooth and yummy. I'd have no qualms about serving it to guests. Thanks Bob. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring is here, time to cross something new off my list.

Hi friends. Today is a sunny, blue-skied day, and even though it's only about 40 degrees (4.5 C) outside, it feels warmer and the air finally feels like spring. The high temperatures for the coming 10 days hover around 50 degrees, which is a welcome reprieve from the blustery cold winter months! I was sitting on the front porch at work today enjoying the warm sunshine and watching the birds hop around on the front lawn, when I resolved to clear another item off my list: pick up birdwatching again.

Birdwatching is sort of a family hobby. For my brother I think it could truly be called a hobby; for my dad, I think it might be more appropriate to call it an "epic quest." He's been interviewed for magazines (Forbes, for one), written books, published articles, and traveled to all seven continents (yes folks, that includes Antarctica, in a truly harrowing tale that involves lots of seasickness and massive head injuries) in the name of ornithology...the study of birds. But it's still a hobby. He's a banker. I am sort of surprised and kind of impressed to see that the Cape Romain Bird Conservatory describes my dad as "one of the 'founding fathers' of North American birding." Wonders never cease.

So, as you can imagine, I sort of feel like I should carry the torch. It's an interesting, unique hobby that involves travel and time in nature. I began my own birdwatching career around the age of 7 or 8, and my very first bird was the American Kestrel, which is a small bird of prey (shown above). I had a few very fortunate sightings shortly thereafter, including a snowy owl sitting on a fencepost along a major highway, so maybe it's my destiny to be a birdwatcher. My brother suggested that I devote one afternoon a month at first, possibly trekking down to Frick Park and maybe expanding my radius as I get better at it. I like the idea, and now I have my handy iPhone to help me out. There's an application for the iPhone called iBird Explorer Plus that is a full field guide to North American birds, with Audobon illustrations, photos, range maps, loads of information, and - get this - bird calls. Totally rad. I'm considering buying it, especially after reading the loads of great reviews (one person says, "Some people might say that if you have an iPhone, you have a good reason to get iBird Explorer. I might say that iBird is a good reason to get an iPhone." Talk about a glowing review. Jeez.)

So, here I go, birdwatching! Wish me luck!

PS - I've been really sick (tummy troubles...ughhh) but I am better now. That being said, I've had to take a break from my jogging. BUT I'm still committed, and I plan to take it back up again ASAP!