Wednesday, December 12, 2007

early holiday break

It's been a rough couple of days inside the Little Cottage, and so I am taking an early holiday break and closing up blogshop until January. My uncle died suddenly of a heart attack Monday afternoon. My oldest son is struggling a bit in school. I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

It's time to slow down, breathe a bit, and just be with my family.

I hope that you and yours have a delightful, healthy, happy, and wonderful holiday. I look forward to reading about your adventures, Santa's generosity, and the stories that unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Blessings to you all.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 07, 2007

what a week

This has been a fun week, but I must admit I'm exhausted!

The book club meeting went off without a hitch on Wednesday night. Everyone brought their 3 dozen cookies and I've been working on my stash steadily since then. Fortunately, I did not have 22 guests, I had 16. So everyone got a seat. A real seat. Oh, and we did our book exchange, too. I got "My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Piccoult. Anxious to read this one, have never read anything by this author before but have always heard good things.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings this week I was working. Did I tell you that I got a job at a nearby clothing store in town? Well, I did. I've been there about a month. I mostly work evenings, from about 5:30-8:30. It's working out very well, and the job is easy-breezy. There's something about clocking in and clocking out that is so refreshing. When you leave the building, you don't give the work a second thought. Oh, and there's the discount, too. Nice!

Tonight is my husband's office party. Tomorrow night a neighbor is hosting a party down the street. They have a small house, like us, and when I ran into the hostess this past week she told me they were expecting 52 people. yowsers! We don't know yet if we'll make it to that one, still figuring out babysitting details. But it's fun to have the option...isn't it? Next weekend we have nothing, no parties at all! Maybe by then the break will be nice.

I hope you have a great weekend, see you next week, or sooner!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

about 5 inches

The snow started yesterday evening around 5 p.m. and continued through the night. No school closings today, by the time morning came the streets had been pretty much cleared. The newspaper says we may get more snow tomorrow night. It feels so festive and pretty - the first snowfall, that is. I think everyone's outdoor Christmas decorations look better with snow. Don't you?

Knowing this was coming, yesterday my youngest and I headed to Target to get new snow boots for my oldest. And some new snow pants. When he gets home from school later today we'll be out there. He LOVES the snow! As long as I have enough time to get ready for my book club guests tonight, I'll be happy to be out there with them both.

Monday, December 03, 2007

scenes from a shower

Sunday's shower was a raging success. Yes, the skies had opened up and we got our fair share of sleet/slush/snow - your basic ugly winter mix. But that was mostly Saturday. On Sunday it poured rain - but at least no one had to wear snow boots! I remembered to take a few pictures, it seems like I always forget when people come over, but this time I didn't.

Here's one right before the guests came over.
The bride-to-be Brigid in a beautiful cream/gold dress and sweater. Looking calm and relaxed and ready to assume the spotlight, which she did graciously.

Co-host Kelly is wearing the cute little black number. She brought a tasty chicken/pasta/tomato dish. It was her own concoction, and I must say, very delicious.
The beverage/dessert table. I got the cupcake cake last year for my son's 5th birthday and have been getting them for each party since. There's no "make mine a small piece" when everyone has a cupcake to eat. And let's face it, who turns down a cupcake!? This one was half vanilla & half chocolate. Yum Yum.

I was sorry that I didn't take a picture of the buffet before we got started. But here we are in an eating action scene. Fresh fruit, Kelly's concoction, and then a platter of muffins/breads to choose from.
I must say that Brig has the nicest friends. She is a nice person herself, so it's no surprise. But these are fun, interesting women, who know how to relax and have a good time. It will be one big party on February 23rd!
Presents galore!! (this photo is a little fuzzy...I'm sorry about that. Looks like I need a new camera pretty soon!)
Me and Brig. I loved hosting the party in her honor. She deserves every happiness in the world!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

two showers and a cookie exchange

I borrowed this punch bowl from my mom and brought it back with me after our Thanksgiving trip. It was my dad's mom's...isn't it something? There are 16 glass punch cups that go with it.

Well, guess what, I have need for those 16 punch cups!

Tomorrow I'm hosting a bridal shower for my dear friend. There are going to be 16 guests (totally random how this worked out...but it's perfect, wouldn't you say?) So I'm making up a champagne punch that packs a punch! Three bottles of champagne, a fifth of gin, gingerale, tonic water, lemonade - you get the idea.

I'm awfully excited about the shower. But there's another shower - this one from the sky. We're expecting sleet & snow tonight. I guess it must be a lot, because my husband was just telling me that United has already cancelled flights for today, in anticipation of this bad weather (which hasn't even arrived yet??)


Two showers...let's hope one doesn't wreak havoc on the other. Please keep your fingers crossed for me and my guests!

Ok, then next week - use #2 for the punch bowl - I'm hosting our December book club meeting. I'm very excited about this. Our last meeting of the year involves a cookie exchange as well as a book exchange. I mean, we wrap up a gently used book from our own shelves and bring it to exchange. We draw numbers and pick books that way. It's very bookish and nerdy, wouldn't you say? But oh so perfect for a book club!

We're also discussing my book selection, which is my favorite book of all time, Marjorie Morningstar. I know some people laugh at this book and its old-fashioned ways. Some others see it as a book that got more recognition than it deserved for its time (it made the cover of Time when it was first published). Me, I simply love the story. I first read it when I was 18 and I've read it half a dozen times since. And I love it every time. club is Wednesday night. Oh, did I mention there are about 22 people in our book club? There was 14 of us when I hosted last time. I hope I can come up with 22 chairs. A few people have told me they don't need a chair, they will gladly sit on the floor. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the Little Cottage doesn't even have space for 22 bottoms. I'm sure that we'll figure it all out when the time comes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chicago slang

This came through on an email this morning. Sorry I don't have original material...will be back soon!

1. Grachki (grach'-key): Chicagoese for 'garage key' as in, 'Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki? How my supposta cut da grass if I don't git intada grach?'

2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made with sausage, it's a sassage sammich; when made with shredded beef, it's an Italian Beef sammich, a local delicacy consisting of piles of spicy meat in a perilously soggy bun.

3. Da: This article is a key part of Chicago speech, as in 'Da Bears' or 'Da Mare' -- the latter denoting Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he's often called.

4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms or a tender body region, but a popular name for one of the region's dominant grocery store chains. 'I'm goin' to the Jewels to pick up some sassage.'

5. Field's: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago department store. Also Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply called ' Carson 's.'

6. Tree: The number between two and four. 'We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night.'

7. Over by dere: Translates to 'over by there,' a way of emphasizing a site presumed familiar to the listener. As in, 'I got the sassage at the Jewels down on Kedzie, over by dere.'

8. Kaminski Park : The mispronounced name of the ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play baseball. Comiskey Park was renamed U.S. Cellular Field (da Cell)

9. Frunchroom: As in, 'Get outta da frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes.' It's not the 'parlor.' It's not the 'living room.' In the land of the bungalow, it's the 'frunchroom,' a named derived, linguists believe, from 'front room.'

10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun 'you!' 'Where use goin'?'

11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.

12. The Lake : Lake Michigan . (What other lake is there?) It's often used by local weathermen, 'cooler by The Lake.'

14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. 'Gimme a braht wit kraut.'

15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb 'say.' For example, 'Den he goes, 'I like this place'!'

16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people, regardless of each individual's gender.

17. Pop: A soft drink. Don't say 'soda' in this town. 'Do ya wanna canna pop?'

18. Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White Castle , a popular Midwestern burger chain. 'Dose sliders I had last night gave me da runs.'

19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year around the Fourth of July holiday.

20. 'Jeetyet?': Translates to, 'Did you eat yet?'

21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the joke, 'What are the two seasons in Chicago ?'

22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for 'a couple, two, three' which really means 'a few.' For example, 'Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da cooler over by dere?' 'Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.'

23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this commercial jingle and the carpet company you'll get if you call that number -- Empire!

24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the 'junk drawer' in the kitchen filled to the brim with miscellaneous, but very important, junk.

25. Southern Illinois : Anything south of I-80. This is where Smothers' is from....

26. Expressways: The Interstates in the immediate Chicagoland area are usually known just by their 'name' and not their Interstate number: the Dan Ryan ('da Ryan'), the Stevenson, the Kennedy (da 'Kennedy'), the Eisenhower (da 'Ike'), and the Edens (just 'Edens' but Da Edens' is acceptable).

27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may refer to them as sneakers or running shoes but Chicagoans will always call them gym shoes!

This is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about Chicago...

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in Chicago .

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Chicago .

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Chicago .

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in Chicago . AUGIE!!!!

If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of I-80 for the weekend, you live in Chicago .

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Chicago ..

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in Chicago .

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Chicago .

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in Chicago .

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Chicago .

If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -- you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in Chicago .

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Chicago ..

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Chicago .

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in Chicago .

If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in Chicago ..

If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your Chicago friends & others, you live or have lived in Chicago.

Monday, November 26, 2007

things so far

Not quite finished with Christmas decorating yet, though I did finish my tree last night. Here's my new tree topper. I've been looking for something for the last couple of years. This gem was less than $15 - and it wasn't from Target! The store that I found it in had it tucked down into a corner behind some shelves. What is it with tree toppers? You don't see them featured often...and when they are, their price is $$. For example, I absolutely loved a glass one that I saw here the other day. But it was over $100. For a tree topper - no!

In other decorating news, my husband just returned from Home Depot with a big box of blue lights for outside. Oops. He thought he was buying white. Typical Christmas, wouldn't you say? One step forward, one step back (no, not two.) Or maybe it's more appropriate to say - one trip out, one trip back. And back again until you get it right...

Good night!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Tonight I am decorating our Christmas tree. These are the new ornaments I have for it this year. I bought some of these last year after Christmas. The little blue star I saw this past week in a stationery shop near my parents' house. The old fashioned looking one with the two little boys I found a few weeks ago in Geneva. The little boys reminded me of my own.

With each new year comes a new ornament...or two or three... I've been collecting them since I was a child. Of course I didn't start collecting them myself, my parents and grandparents did that for me. They would give new ornaments each year to my brothers and I, and now that we're grown we have our own collections going back to way back's a nice tradition. When I said the other day that my decor is going in a new direction this year, that unless I love it it's not coming out of the box...well, that doesn't apply to what's on the tree. On the contrary! It just wouldn't be Christmas if I wasn't using the same ornaments today that I proudly hung up when I was 10.

When I'm all decorated around here, I'll snap some pictures. So far things are looking good...if I do say so myself!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

One of our guests tonight was my dad's Aunt Elaine, his father's youngest sister, who is 83. She is a Roman Catholic nun, of the Sisters of Notre Dame order. She's had significant leadership responsibilities within the order, including a 10 year assignment in Rome immediately following Vatican II. She has traveled extensively in her post and has friends all over the world. Tonight she brought mementos from her most recent excursion abroad, which was a trip to Ireland to visit her older brother Dave and his wife, Mae (my dad's aunt and uncle.)

Elaine is a great guest, as you can imagine. She is not one to sit quietly, but rather holds all of our attention with her fascinating stories and descriptions of life far away from home. She is intelligent, witty, and sharp. She is also very thoughtful. Tonight she brought with her a Thanksgiving prayer that she wrote for us to read as a group before we ate our feast. I would like to share it with you.

Thanksgiving 2007

Whereas: The first settlers to arrive on our land, December 4, 1619, at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River, made it a Day of Thanksgiving to God according to their charter, and observed it annually thereafter, and

Whereas: Governor William Bradford arranged an early autumn harvest festival in 1621 for the Pilgrim colonists, to give thanks to God for the progress they had made and invited Indians to join them, and

Whereas: President George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789 naming November 26th a national day of thanksgiving to God to be observed in all the states, and

Whereas: President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 with the intent of uniting the nation, four months after the end of the Civil War proclaimed the last Thursday of November as the annual national day of Thanksgiving to God, and

Whereas: Americans continue this observance and gather each year in their homes and churches with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks to God for the freedoms we have and the many blessings we enjoy, and

Whereas: Thanksgiving Day is now a time not only to gather in a spirit of gratitude with family, friends, and neighbors, but also to take the opportunity to serve others and share our blessings with the poor, and

Whereas: We express our deep appreciation for the sacrifices our honorable men and women in uniform are making as they work to advance the cause for freedom. We keep them in our thoughts and pray for their safe return home, and

Whereas: [my grandparents] were married 65 years ago on Thanksgiving Day in 1942, at Holy Name Church. We pause to honor their memory with deep gratitude for all they bequeathed to us, and

Whereas: [my parents] have graciously invited us to come together in their beautiful home to celebrate the blessedness of Thanksgiving Day, 2007, we thank them and we pray

God, our Father, on this national day of giving thanks to you, we are deeply
grateful for the inspiration of the brave founders of our country and the valiant
men and women who fought and died for freedom and unity. We thank you for
the beauty of our land, the abundance of our natural resources and harvests
and the inheritance of being a generous and compassionate people. Grace our
table with Your Presence. Bless us and bless our food. Grant that after our
earthly journeys, we may all be reunited again around the Heavenly Table of
your Eternal Banquet. We ask through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit.

When we were finished eating - coffee and dessert long since finished - there was a knock at the door. Sister Theresa had come to pick up Elaine for the return trip. Sister Theresa, we learned, is the head of the order in the United States. But Elaine said her real claim to fame is her beautiful singing voice. Once we heard that, my mom and dad asked her if she'd like to sing for us...and do you know? She said she would be delighted. So we sat down in my parents' living room, all 15 of us (actually 16, since one of my dad's brothers stopped by to say hi), and she sang "Amazing Grace" - a cappella. It was beautiful and moving, and the perfect way to end our gathering.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

happy turkey day

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house - we are here! And tomorrow there will be 15 of us gathered 'round. Do you recognize the pilgrim pair from above...they made the trip with me as a little token of our appreciation for being the guest on the big feast day.

We've been here a few days and have stayed quite busy. On Sunday we did this:
...which was really fun and festive. I'd never decorated a gingerbread house before, but now that I have done it, I think I want to do it every year!

Before I left home I took this picture. Thanksgiving is so sweet, isn't it? It's my favorite. How can you beat its simplicity and the sincerity of the message. There's just no overdoing it.

I hope your holiday is a very good one, spent with the people you care about most. Looking forward to catching up with you after the week is through.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

new look

I did a little Christmas shopping earlier this week and found this cute holiday pair. I thought they looked like 'me'. So here they are, waiting to take their place when all the decorations go up. I'm looking forward to taking my holiday look in a new direction this year. I'm not putting out the same things I've put out every year...I've found that some of those things I don't even like, I just put them out because I've always put them out. This year I'm going to be really strict about it. If I don't love it, it stays in the box. I'm a way that I haven't been about Christmas decorating in a while. I can't wait to see where I end up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Anyone seen those adorable pale blue paper Christmas trees on display at Starbucks?

I was in one yesterday and fell instantly in love...and then picked it up to see no price on the bottom. What, just holiday decor? Not for sale? waaaa!!!

A nice guy behind the counter told me I might be able to pick one or two up after Christmas if I get there early.


I'll be on a mission. December 26th. You'll know where to find first Starbucks...waiting in line with an empty shopping bag...ready to take my goodies home. Hopefully!

Monday, November 12, 2007

monday morning musings

* I'm on a new job. It started yesterday and ends tomorrow. A 3 day job - how can you beat it. This one has me driving around all over Chicagoland, along with a videographer. We are interviewing women in their homes. The interviews are 90 minutes each.

* The interviews are not close together. So yesterday as I'm driving along (88E, 55N, 294W, 90W, 94E, 290E, 290W, 55S, 355S) I got to thinking about how I used to get so nervous about driving around Chicago. The first few years that I lived here I didn't have a car and I became accustomed to always being the passenger, never the driver. And when I started to drive it was like, WOW! Sweaty hands and increased heart rate navigating the heavy traffic on the always busy expressways around here. Thankfully that phase is long gone. I'm a pro now.

*One of the women we met yesterday had a lot of pets. 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 1 cockatoo named Iggy. Iggy was sitting at the top of a curtain rod when we walked in the door. As soon as the interview got started he flew down and landed on the woman's shoulder. He stayed there for the rest of the time. The woman had to keep petting him, otherwise he would squawk. She said he rules the roost, and even chases the dogs around. Her boyfriend put a video of it here.

*On my way home I turned on the radio and caught the last half of The Cure's recorded concert on XRT. I love the Cure! Wait...a few songs later...I love a lot of songs by the Cure! I think 5 songs! Maybe 6! Does this make me a fan? What if I don't like the rest of the songs? What if I really don't like them? To become a collector of something - jewelry, pottery, handbags - it takes 3 pieces. 3 pieces is what qualifies as a collection. But what about music? What's the qualification for being a fan of a band? Would 5 songs do?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mary's gift

My mom stopped by this week for a short visit this week, and her timing couldn't have been better. For Christmas this year she had my much admired friend Mary paint a table and wall mirror for me. And Mary dropped the pieces off this week. I am so excited to share them with you.

First, the wall mirror, which I had requested that Mary paint with a black & white check border. Quite sharp looking, wouldn't you agree? (sorry about the blurriness of my photo... I was hurrying to get the daylight and my rushing around is reflected in the blurry edges of the picture.)

A close up shot so you can see Mary's attention to detail. I wish I would have taken a 'before' picture. The wood on the mirror was dark and shiny. It was not bad...but this is so much better. I don't know how Mary keeps such a steady hand to paint all of those little squares. I had an opportunity to watch her once, and it really is amazing. She just steadies herself, and then - paint paint paint - out come the little checks from the end of her paint brush. What a gift she has for creating beautiful art!

Next, the round table - the 'fish table'. Previously this was a dark wood piece as well. I have it stationed in a nook at the top of my stairs and since the sun was starting to set, I picked it up and brought it into my bedroom for you to see in the sunlight. Can you see all the detail? Please click to enlarge - it's worth it!

The table's base...more defined now with the gold running vertically down the pedestal. The blue and yellow check was inspired by one of my favorite pieces...this is how they look on the inside of my butter dish. And they look so friendly and right at home on this beautiful table.

A close up of the blue & yellow going around the edge. Can you tell in the photo...the wood is uneven between the top and bottom row. Don't you think what Mary did looks fantastic!

I actually stole this last shot from Mary's own blog. She did a better job of photographing the table in its entirety. I think it looks very pretty in her home as well.

Thank you for sharing in my joy by looking at these pictures. You know me and you know my obsession. So you can imagine that I am in seventh heaven right now!
Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 02, 2007

sorting through stories

Yesterday I did something that I've been meaning to do for weeks - no, months - I started sorting through the kids' clothes, figuring out what should be saved, donated, or sold on ebay. I've saved everything - EVERYTHING - going all the way back to 0-3 months. I have bins going up to 4T, and soon it will be time to buy one for the 5T items. Our storage space is pretty good, but there comes a time when you realize that your stuff is getting to be too much. Do you know what I mean?

The first bin that I opened was 0-3 months. And, as soon as the lid came off - voila! - I was transported back in time. There's my little one, tiny and precious and sleeping most of the day, in his little onesie, his soft cotton 'bag'. I can see him in the bassinet in our room, snuggled up and cozy. I see little fists, barely popping out of the sleeves. I see his tiny feet, legs, arms, hands. I swear I can even smell his soft, newborn skin. All the little outfits have such strong memories associated with them. I remember them - new, freshly washed and hanging in the closet, waiting for the baby's arrival. I remember them piling up in the clothes hamper, because we'd go through 2-3 outfits each day those first few weeks. Each memory is so vivid, so sharp. Thinking about it all makes me happy, but a little sad, too. Can I go back for one day? No? How about one hour? I'd take 5 minutes if you'd give it to me.

I decided that this bin was too much. I closed it up and looked for a different one.

Here we are - 18 months. Definitely toddler clothes. These didn't have to be changed as often, but they took their fair share of abuse, what with all the walking and crawling and climbing and toddling and exploring inside and outside. Wait a minute, some of these outfits are too recent to be here. What about this one - this one piece Polo rugby/longall? Didn't we just give this to Thomas for Christmas last year? Oh, wait. That was 2 years ago. How about this little jacket - there it is in the picture above. This is darling and in great condition. This could easily sell. But...gosh, it's cute. I remember my mom and I looking at it together in the store near her house. I remember when it was so big on Bobby that I had to roll the sleeves up three or four times before I'd see his dimpled fingers appear. I remember Thomas posing in it on the sidewalk in front of our house.

Hmmm. The 18 month bin is just as tricky to maneuver through as the newborn bin. Maybe harder, actually, because there are little voices are connected to these clothes. Tiny little voices saying, Mommy? Mawk an cheez? Mommy? Go for wok?

Ok. Well. Hmm. Enough of that. I closed this one, too.

You can see that I struggled a bit. After dipping into these 2 bins I decided to call it a day. Where did I end up? Well, so far I've decided to save everything and donate nothing. Actually, I did take a few pictures for ebay. I wonder if I'll get the nerve to follow through.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

don't tell the dentist

Some of us here (Ok, me) have been eating candy nonstop now for about 24 hours (maybe 36 hours...Ok, maybe since I bought it on Sunday.) Luckily, I got an email last night - "donate your leftover candy" - apparently there's need for it here in town. This is fortunate! But letting it go, seeing it leave the house...that will be a little sad.

I hope your Halloween was festive and fun. It was really fun reading everyone's post yesterday, especially this one.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy haunting

Here's hoping you get lots of treats, no tricks!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

can and can't

I've seen this on a few blogs over the last few days...thank you for the inspiration for today's post.

Things I can do well.

1. Print. My handwriting can be very neat - if I try to make it so. I have to try, of course. Most of the time around here it's basic scrawl. Sometimes I find that it's been so long since I've written anything that when I do need to write, I find it kind of hard to do it for an extended period of time. You too?

2. Organize. Straighten. Arrange. Again, I have to be in the mood. But when the mood strikes, I like to get into this task. My mom used to have me organize her kitchen every time she and my dad moved because I always liked figuring out where pots and pans and dishes should go in a new space.

3. Speak in public. And get this, I actually like doing it! You meet so many people who dread it, but not me. Once upon a time I dreamed of a career as a broadcast journalist, but a stint as a production assistant with a local news channel convinced me otherwise. There were (and are) just too many things about that business that I don't like. So I took the moral high ground and instead pursued a career in advertising. Go figure.

4. Communicate. I like to keep in close touch with my family and friends, and I look at it almost as a job that I need to work on all the time - especially since we are all scattered about. I also have found that most misunderstandings between people can be traced back to a simple case of it's important to keep those lines open and get the message out, loud and clear.

5. Listen. This is always challenging, and many times that I struggle to get it right. People often tell me I have a good memory, but I think it's due in part to the times when I've been an active listener. Not an easy task. Next time you want to try this, listen to someone speak and absorb what they say without letting your mind jump ahead to what you'll say when there's a pause in the conversation. You'll be surprised by how difficult this can be.

Things I can't do well.

1. Math. I am not good at it, but I've exaggerated my deficit in this area so much in my mind that I'm convinced I'm awful at it. Also, I get extremely nervous doing math - basic calculations - in front of people. Like, adding a tip on a receipt. I can do this without a problem if I'm by myself, but if I think people are looking at me, I freeze up. I have to shade my work with one hand so no one can see what I'm doing.

2. Financial planning. A sibling of #1. I can balance a checkbook (math phobia and all) but I cannot see in my mind a clear, sky-view map of creating a comprehensive financial plan. I don't know how to explain it other than to say that when it comes to creating plans in other areas of my life, I know exactly what to do and can intuitively find my way through the process - even if it is in an area I don't know well. But when it comes to long-range financial planning, I get very intimidated. This is what you pay people for, I guess.

3. Crafts. Don't laugh. I like to decorate my house, but I'm terrible at crafts. So many of you lovely readers have studios in your houses. We don't have that here...and if we did, what would I do with it? I can barely sew on a button. I tried knitting lessons a few years ago and after awhile it just wasn't working out. I'd like to try it again, I figure anyone can do it...but actually, is that true? The thing that would motivate me this time is finding a way to make myself Christmas stockings that look just like hers.

4. Throw and catch. I am beyond bad. I always feel a little embarrassed admitting this to my husband (as if it's not obvious) because he's very talented in this area. At a family picnic shortly before I got married, my brothers and I were throwing a football around when one of them suggested I try to throw with my left hand (because I'm a lefty). Then they all said it was better than my right, which I'd been using to throw since, oh, let's see - when I was about 3? Come to think of it, why was I throwing that football in the first place? at my picnic??

5. Letting go. I can be a bit of a control freak, especially when it comes to my house. Sometimes I wish I was one of those moms who could just relax and let the kids mess up everything, but I'm not. But actually, this doesn't bother me anymore. You take the good with the bad, and by and large, I'm happy being me.

My Tip.

This from the interpersonal communication major: don't be afraid to ask someone about their bad news, because they want to talk about it.

Many people believe that if someone has a problem - wife left, child sick, parent died, dog ran away, husband involved in scandal - that person does not want to talk about it, and it's better to wait for them to bring it up with you versus taking the chance in upsetting them by bringing it up first. This is a mistake. People are generally very happy to have an opportunity to respond to sincere inquiries about how they're doing. They want to talk to you, they want you to listen. They want a friend who isn't afraid to ask them about their terrible news. All it takes is a gentle "how are you doing with [obvious problem]?" and you can gauge by their answer how much or how little they want to share with you. Believe me, they do want to share. They'll let you know if they don't, but either way they'll love you for caring.

Monday, October 29, 2007

happy birthday Little B

Happy 30-something birthday to my dear friend Betsy
my freshman roommate from across the country
who became my attached-at-the-hip pal
and who now lives away again (yet strangely close)
My little buddy (4' 10")
who makes me laugh more than anyone
who cares about me, and all of her friends so much,
who loves her husband and family - so much

Such a *fun*, genuine friend, devoted mother and wife -

You would feel lucky to know her, too.

Happy Birthday, Little B!

Friday, October 26, 2007

poor neglected blog

Hi...I'm back to my old template for awhile. I didn't really like the blue background, or the yellow before that. Overall I'm just not very happy about the look of things on the blog but I'm unable (or unwilling?) to take the time right now to make it look better. I look at your blogs and they are so creative and pretty. Bear with me, I will get there eventually. In the meantime, I've always thought this lighthouse theme was rather soothing.

It's been a challenging week. How was yours?

We've had a big dose of viruses sweeping through the house recently. Thankfully they didn't affect me...but then again, I got something bad as well. Ah, what a pain in the neck. Literally! Seems I've got a couple of vertebrae in my neck out of whack, causing me much discomfort as well as my driving privileges for the time being. Hmph. Here's hoping the little buggers align themselves soon.

And speaking of alignment...I always find that when I start feeling sorry for myself over pesky little problems, something comes along to right my tilted view of the world. Did anyone happen to see this the other day? I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. What a powerful and inspirational message to get going and start living.

Do you ever think...these messages come along and find you, just when you need to hear them the most? I do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

from the party

We had a total of 18 guests on Saturday night, and everyone brought something. That really helped. I was toying with the idea of having them each just bring beer or wine, but in the end it was such a time saver to ask them to bring a food dish. Some people brought appetizers, some brought sides, and one lovely lady brought 2 scrumptious desserts. One was pumpkin cookies that had a little pumpkin spread that you could spoon directly on to the top of each cookie. The other was pumpkin brownies. I knew she was planning to bring a dessert, but I didn't know she'd bring two (though I probably should have guessed this - she's quite a baker.) So I baked something of my own to have on hand, just in case. And of course there are lots of dessert leftovers...just what I don't need but what can you do!

Remember Gooey Butter Cake? Well, this variation is Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake (you know, I really do make other desserts, but I admit that this is a favorite because it's such a crowd pleaser.)

I had never tried the pumpkin variation before Saturday. It's a very good - but very rich - alternative to pumpkin pie. If you think you might like it, I highly recommend it for your dessert crowd as well.

Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 egg
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 16-oz box confectioners' sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted
1 15-oz. can pumpkin pie filling

In a large bowl with electric mixer combine cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well. Pat into bottom of a prepared pan and set aside. Still using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Dump in confectioners' sugar and beat well. Slowly pour in butter and pumpkin and mix well. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Center of cake should be a little gooey. Serve with a little whipped cream on top. Bon appetit!

* * *
Also, I wanted to show you some flowers that one of our guests brought. My kids added the curling leaves yesterday. Isn't this a pretty autumn bouquet? It is very cheerful to see in my kitchen.

Have a nice day, everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2007

back yard action

Saturday's party was a lot of fun. A whole lot of fun! I wish now that I had taken some pictures, but we were so caught up in the moment that it never occurred to us to stop what we were doing and grab the camera. It had been a beautiful day and it was a perfect night for the party: clear skies, mild temps. We could go back and forth, inside and outside, without jackets or even sweaters. Lovely lovely night!

In the middle of our party prep on Saturday we were interrupted by these strange sounds coming from the backyard: clank, whir, creee, crash! crash! crash! They started out loud and got progressively louder. Not being able to see over our fence back there, we hustled up to my bedroom to have a look. Turns out there's another tear down, caddy corner behind us. We saw the garage of the house being knocked down. Looks like the house will be coming down shortly (maybe today?) My kids...just when I was saying how lucky they are to have had the construction going on across the street. Here's another golden opportunity for them to see those big men and machines at work.

P.S. Look who was with us this weekend...Snoopy again!

Friday, October 19, 2007

ready to relax

My second day home...aah, it's heavenly to be back. My kindergartner has been home as well, as school is out because of parent/teacher conferences. So during the day it's just been the 3 of us again...hanging out, no schedule, no place to be or to run to. Love being around the little people here. They make me so very happy. I hope and believe they feel the same way about me.

How about that label on the bottle above? Don't worry, I took this picture a couple of nights ago, not 5 minutes ago. But this weekend we're going to be all about relaxing. Kicking back, hanging out, having FUN. No worries or cares. We're having our neighborhood dinner club over tomorrow night, but do you think I'm feeling concerned? No sir. We're staging it like a tailgate party - complete with the grill on the driveway, tiki torches lit, burgers and brats served out of the back of our car. I've asked everyone to dress in support of their favorite football team. Lots of die hard fans around here of all different schools, so it will be a real variety show. We also have 2 glam European couples, I think they may come dressed for their favorite European football league? There's also one guy coming who played high school football with my husband, and his wife tells me that he's wearing the high school jersey to the party. wow.

I've told all the couples to plan on extra long shifts for their babysitters tomorrow night. We're not wrapping things up until the cows come home!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I've got one more day of work - tomorrow. Whoopee! So today I thought I'd show you some of the steps I've taken over the last 8 weeks.

Awhile back I brought my camera to work with me. It was pretty silly - me snapping pictures in the middle of a morning commute. My camera is nothing fancy, so I couldn't pass myself off as an amateur photographer or anything remotely like it. And since I was in my work clothes I didn't look like a tourist, either. I just looked like a strange working girl taking pictures. But if anyone asked, I was all ready with a made up excuse about how this was really for my kindergartner son. Of course, no one asked. The whole crowd was much too sleepy to be inquisitive. But it was fun anyway.

Ok, so here we go. Hope you enjoy this!

Here's my view of sleepy passengers taking the metra train in from the suburbs to the city. Actually, they don't look too sleepy here.

A view from my window seat, still at the station. Park & ride to the city.

After 32 express minutes, we have rolled into Chi-town. A mad rush for exits and escalators at Union Station.
Emptying out of Union into the street. The start of my walk to work. It takes me about 25 minutes from here to get to the office building where I was stationed.

There's the Chicago "L" going by. It gets a lot of bad press and always seems to have significant operating issues going on, but when I used to live down here I never minded taking it. Nice people watching view from above, don'tcha think?

If you prefer Caribou over Starbucks, as I do, you gotta look extra hard for one down here in the Loop. Worth finding it, though.

A random look up a city street.

That one was so exciting I decided to repeat it.

Still walking. I really did look like a fool with my camera. But for the blog, there's no such thing as vanity, wouldn't you say?

Something important looking going on at Daley plaza. Maybe a job fair. My mission was too important for me to stop and find out.

Ah, yes. The corner of heartbreak and despair. Macy's in the old Marshall Field's State Street location. You can hear the sobs of Chicagoans walking by as you approach the building.

More randomness here. Look, it's the L again.

By now I've worked up a bit of a sweat. I'm all the way over by Millennium Park, which is several blocks east of the train station and right next to Lake Michigan. You can see that the sky is starting to clear up a bit. Looks like we're going to have sunshine after all.

Another view of the park.

Walking next to the old Chicago public library. This looks like a shot from Paris...or am I exaggerating here?

There's another shot of the park.

Now I leave the street and I'm up on the 39th floor of the office building where I worked. This is the view out my window. Looking due east, and a little south.

Now looking north. You can see a tiny bit of Navy Pier.
And here's a view from the conference room down the hall. Straight south. Birdseye view of Millennium Park.

Now looking a little more southeast. You can see how pretty the day turned out to be.

A couple more shots.

Too bad the view was the best part of the project!

Of course I meant to take more pictures...I should have even snapped some shots looking north on this day. But wouldn't you know, they started asking me to be productive. Nice people I worked with. Miserable project, but really great team.
The next time I go downtown, I'll try to remember to take some pictures. It's fun for me to see things like this, too. You always think you'll remember these shots forever in your mind, but then you don't.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!