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!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Flamingos of Bascom Hill

In 1979, the student government at University of Wisconsin decided that the best use of student government funds was to purchase 1,008 plastic flamingos and display them in the center of the beautiful, green campus on historic Bascom Hill. Please read the short and very interesting article about the event at the Wisconsin Historical Society website. The governing body was also responsible for a partial replica of the Statue of Liberty peeking out from the frozen Lake Mendota in the middle of Madison.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spoiler alert: there's going to be a lot of whining in this post.

I'm feeling sorry for myself today. It's gray and damp outside. I'm very tired and stuffed up - I suspect that I'm getting sick. I scratched my eye and it hurts. I'm at work, have both kids all day, and both of them are miserably sick. The only thing that sounds good to me right now is crawling into my own, warm bed and going to sleep.

Alright, so now that I've got that out of my system, hopefully I can begin to cheer up. So, do you know about Couch Surfing? You can go to to learn more about it. Basically, you offer your house as a place for people to stay while they're traveling, and other people will do it for you. So, if I traveled to, say, Paris, I could contact a couch surfer there a few weeks ahead of time and stay with them, if they're willing to host me. The benefits are manifold, but the two biggest benefits are: 1. You get to travel without paying for lodging. Bonus. 2. You often get an insider's perspective on your vacation spot. You find out about local hangouts, places off the beaten track. To me, that's the most exciting part. The reason I'm telling you about this is because we have our first couch surfer staying at our house right now. It's been going really well, and I'm pretty stoked about the opportunities this system might provide. A lot of people worry that it's dangerous...and there are definitely some safety concerns, but has an elaborate reference system in place so you can be sure that others have stayed with these people without any problems. 

I am still candy-free. I've been doing well with my jogging, although I was supposed to jog today, and now I can't because the kids are home. ( case you don't know this already, they aren't MY kids. I'm a nanny from 8 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday.) 

So..I need to cheer up. Course of action: take Tylenol Allergy Sinus, have a big cup of coffee, wrap a blanket around my shoulders, and try to think of the good things in my life. I just feel pretty awful. I will appreciate any offers to help make me smile. :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's March...where's spring?

So, in my world, March usually means spring is coming. Which is great, except that it's not true. It's 19 degrees F here, or -7 degrees C to all my world friends. Not very springlike at all. 

So, the main purpose for my post here is to let you all know that I imported all my posts from my other blog, Postcard Voyager, to this blog. I get a lot more traffic here, and I think a lot of you would be interested in the postcards. And technically it's related, since one of the items on my list is related to Postcrossing. :) Anyhow, I haven't been updating the Postcard blog very often, so there won't be too many postcard posts here. 

I started on my skirt again, the purple crocheted one, and I am very near to completing it. AND, I've decided that the month of March will be my month with no candy. I think it's going to be pretty tough for me, so any support is appreciated...I love candy, and I have a hard time staying away. But I am nearing the completion of my Couch to 5K Running Program, and in the spirit of getting fit and healthy for spring, I think getting rid of candy will be a good idea. 

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dieu merci c'est vendredi! (is that right?)

Godzijdank, het is vrijdag! (Thanks Martine...that's Dutch.)

So, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm so glad it's Friday that I'm saying it in multiple languages. Now that Olivia (the 1 year old I nanny for) is walking, my job is suddenly much more exhausting. 

But what can I say about my list this week? Gimme Your Stuff is fully underway. I've arranged the details of a swap with Claire from Malta, which I find quite exciting - to my American sensibilities, Malta is a very exotic country. :) Or perhaps it would be better described as "exciting and faraway." Anyhow, it seems that I now also have the possibility for small swaps with two lovely ladies from Paris and Moscow. It's all very exciting. 

Today, I will get on the treadmill and jog for the duration for the first time. If you had told me two months ago that I would be ready to go for a long jog, I would have told you you were crazy. But I feel ready! And I'm working my way towards 5K in 30 minutes. 

In other news, I will soon be participating in a new blog with four girls from Paris, Germany, Russia, and Malaysia. The purpose is cultural exchange - to gain a better understanding of what life is like on a daily basis in these various places. To talk about anything from the weather that day to what we are thinking about to a video we liked on Youtube. I'm very excited about it, and I will link to it here as soon as the blog is ready. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Macedonian Costume and Bridal Dance

This wonderful card is the result of my second private swap with Ana in Macedonia! She has a wonderful postcard blog of her own at She gets some really unusual postcards because Macedonia has so few participants in the Postcrossing project. In any case, I really, really love postcards with the national costume, because this is almost always something that I know nothing about. That's why I'm writing about it here! I encourage you to visit this website to read more about the Macedonian dress, but I'll try to summarize here. 

This originates from the region of Macedonia seen here: 

The elaborate costume is worn by women during the bridal dance, which you can see here on this wonderful YouTube video. :)

Gimme Your Stuff!

One thing on my list of things to do is participate in Gimme Your Stuff, which is a small cultural exchange - send a box full of small goodies to someone in a different country, and get one back. Here is my list:

What I Can Send and What I'd Like to Receive:
  • stationery or stickers
  • books and magazines
  • toiletries like shampoo, soaps, lotions...
  • tea, coffee, or spices
  • candy or sweets of any variety
  • small clothing items and accessories (t-shirts, scarves, gloves, hats, underwear, jewelry, belts, etc.)
  • mix CDs handmade by me :)
  • souvenir items like postcards, magnets, keychains
  • please feel free to ask for other things...I am happy to send just about anything
I really hope to hear from you! 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Renewed passport!

Good morning! It's Monday, and I feel pretty good after a relaxing weekend. Vince and I have taken up a new hobby, geocaching. It's a worldwide, never-ending treasure hunt. A geocache is a small, sealed container containing a logbook and other small, inexpensive but amusing trinkets that are hidden in, at the moment, nearly 800,000 locations around the globe. You use a GPS device with latitude and longitude coordinates to find the caches, which are all listed on the website. The fun part is hunting for the cache, which is often hidden in an ingenious location. When you find it, you sign the log to say you were there, look at all the goodies inside, and leave something of your own behind, if you choose. You can also take things, but you must replace them with something else. It's really fun, good exercise, and a great way to be outdoors and explore an area, whether you live there or you're just visiting.

So, on to things on my list - Vince and I went to the post office. I renewed my passport, and he applied for his first, so in a few weeks we'll be ready to travel across borders if we so desire. :) Also, I had another girls' night with Megan and Dana on Thursday, February 5. We went to dinner at Lulu's, then went to Carnegie Music Hall to see Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt play. It was a nice, simple set with just two guys, two chairs, and two guitars, and we all enjoyed it. Thanks Dana!

I plan on finishing Season 1 of Veronica Mars today - one down, two more to go - then that's another thing off the list. Also, I took a week off from the Couch to 5k Running Plan, but instead of doing my normal, getting frustrated and giving up, I backtracked a little and continued my jogging. I'm really happy about that. Now I just need to go cold turkey with my sweet tooth and give up all the junk and candy. Blech.

The weather is getting warmer...thank god. Hopefully no more single digit days.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Define "regularly" ..... ?

So, in order to fulfill the requirements of my 101 list, I have to post to this blog regularly. What exactly, do you suppose, is "regularly?" Is it basically, as long as I don't quit, it's regular? That's what I'm going with. Because if I complete everything on my list, I get to buy an extra pair of shoes.

So I actually only have one thing I can actually cross off my list for this go-round, but I am working on a few others. On Saturday, Vince and I visited the Carnegie Art Museum and had a lovely time.

In other news, I began the Couch to 5k Running Plan a little over three weeks ago, and it's been very successful so far. I am one of the most out of shape people I know - my cardiovascular health is considerably worse than my outward appearance might otherwise indicate - but I have been able to manage the slow transition from walking to jogging. At the beginning of my fourth week I am doing 16 minutes of jogging and 5 minutes of walking, and by the end of next week it will be 20 minutes of solid jogging. Two weeks after that, I'll be jogging for thirty minutes. I'd like to be in better health for spring, when exercise options are wide open - I'd like to use my new bike more, and maybe just do some hiking in the amazing park practically outside my front door. And it would be nice if I lost some weight in the process, but I'm not stressing about it, because I'm pretty sure whether I do or not, exercise is going to be good for me, and I don't want to get discouraged. :)

I've been reading a great deal, and I just began re-watching Veronica Mars. Still on my way to becoming a better me. :)

(PS- If you've been reading this as a note on Facebook, I encourage to come to the actual website where this is posted, which is, so you can see photos and my original list, plus some cool links and such!)