Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Holiday Weekend

It was a relaxing and pleasant holiday weekend. Friday night we had kicked around the idea of going to the Drive-In, but ended up doing our grocery shopping instead. Saturday was spent doing additional shopping and visiting Adam’s grandma up in Green Bay. I also baked some Loaded Oatmeal Cookies per Adam’s not so subtle suggestion. Adam and his dad finished putting the trim on the second window and put up all kinds of hooks and organizer racks in the garage.

Sunday was a day of cleaning and cooking. Adam vacuumed and mopped while I cleaned and rearranged the rodent room.

Adam washed both our cars and changed my oil too. Such a handy man... I made a spiced pork roast and Adam got to try out the new rotisserie on the grill with a turkey breast. It turned out great and we got to have a mini Thanksgiving in May. Monday morning we took the cat boxes outside and hosed them down and gave their room a good vacuuming. We also picked up some shelving for the rodent room which Adam kindly installed for me.

I made a batch of frozen custard as well as an Apple Slump for after dinner. It turned out super yummy, although I did manage to take a chunk of my finger off with the peeler. Gah. We also snuck in a few hours of the "NCIS" marathon on USA.

Somewhere in there I managed to watch two movies: I’m Not There and The Amateurs. The first was an Oscar movie. Being not so much a fan of Bob Dylan (I mean the man can’t sing, why is he so popular?) this movie was a little painful since the entire soundtrack is Bob Dylan songs. Argh. Also there’s a vague semblance of a plot. I was bored for most of the movie. But I managed to watch the whole thing. So there. The Amateurs was one I picked up when I went to exchange the previous movie. I figured it would be good since the cast was chock full of great people. It’s a funny, independent-looking film about a group of friends who set out to make a porno with no experience in the movie-making or adult-film industry. It reminded me of The Girl Next Door, except with middle-aged men rather than sex-deprived teenagers. And with the trend lately of overly long movies, it was a relief to see one that clocked in at just 96 minutes.

Looking ahead, this short week is going to be a challenge for me. Inventory is Friday and month-end starts again. Adam will be helping his cousin, Dave, move on the 2nd and 3rd and might be staying up in Green Bay for a couple nights. Not that I’ll really notice since I’ll be staying late on the 2nd and going in early on the 3rd. Not a better time to choose to be apart, I’d say. That’s about it for now though. Hoping for good weather so we can leave the windows open more.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicago Trip

Well here we are, a week later, and I haven’t gotten around to blogging about our trip last week. Bad Martha.

We left last Wednesday around 6:30am after checking all the critters and making sure the house was ready to be left alone for a couple days. The weather was iffy when we started out. It rained sporadically and was cloudy. Traffic through Milwaukee wasn’t too bad. It was when we neared the state line and Chicago that it got messy. It took us 4 hours to get to the Field Museum. There was a ton of "start and stop" traffic and some "come to a dead stop" traffic as well. We finally got through it and downtown and parked. We walked the short distance from Soldier Field to the Field Museum.

I had a hard time avoiding all the puddles left by the rain and the bottom of my pants got soaked. Anyway, after getting our tickets (the cashier mistook us as students so we saved $6!) we started with the America exhibit. We didn’t hit school field trip congestion too much in that area. A group of elementary school kids were in the pottery room before us but they cleared out pretty quickly. We then headed to Egypt and were accosted by a swarm of rude and boisterous high schoolers. We let them get ahead of us for our own peace of mind. After Egypt we visited the Africa exhibit. After Africa we checked out the animal/wildlife exhibit. (We chose the “cat lover” door.) Somewhere along the line we broke for lunch at the museum’s Corner Bakery. I was unimpressed by both the prices and the quality of the food. Oh well. It was either that or McDonalds. We skipped the upstairs dinosaur exhibits and took a peek at the gift shop before heading to the aquarium.

The sun was out as we walked around to the Shedd. We got our tickets and wristbands and headed towards the fish. We kind of took the place in order, starting with rivers and lakes, spending some time circling the Caribbean Reef, seahorses. We went down to the Oceanarium and saw the dolphins and whales before their show started. Honestly, the whales were a lot less interesting now that we’ve seen them in their real habitat. We headed back upstairs and went through the special lizards exhibit. I’m not a fan. We then headed back out to the main area to finish our circle. We ended the visit with the Wild Reef exhibit. I was only spooked by one thing – a ginormous lobster that I didn’t notice until it moved right next to me. I might have let an “ahh!” out on that one. Adam took some neat pictures.

See them all here.

We decided to forego the Planetarium when Adam’s knee started giving him trouble on the way up from the Wild Reef. We did a lap through the aquarium gift shop and headed back to the car. We decided to head to the hotel and check in before heading out to find the restaurant for dinner. Turns out that’s a lot easier said than done. Being (relatively) small-town people, the whole parking in Chicago thing is always an adjustment. We pulled into the hotel’s affiliated parking ramp and when we asked if we could just go check in and then leave again we seemed to confuse everyone. Luckily we worked it out, checked in, and then headed back out into traffic. It was still a little early to go for dinner so we tried one of the Marshalls we had pinpointed. And, duh, it was on Michigan Ave, but it didn’t occur to us that parking would be a challenge. We drove past and regrouped. We decided to head to IKEA a day early to kill some time. Until we got on the highway and it took 45 minutes to go one exit. By this time we were both sick of traffic and getting crabby. We got off the interstate, turned around, and headed to the restaurant. Traffic was moving much better going the other direction and we were doing well until we got about 2 miles from our destination. All of the sudden traffic came to a complete halt. We were stopped for probably 5 minutes. Turns out there was a train and we had to wait for it, but we were so far back in the line we had no idea. So we finally got to The Frosted Mug and IT WAS CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS.

I’m totally serious.

By this time I’m bordering on psychotic and Adam’s just as frustrated as I am. We stopped for gas ($3.99!) and then headed back to the hotel. We properly parked the car, dropped our stuff in our room, and went to check out the restaurant in the hotel. Unfortunately they only took cash so we went across the street to KFC instead. We ate back in our room, I checked my email and did my IMA stuff, and we decompressed from the day.

Thursday morning we were up around 6:30 although the alarm was set for 7. It wasn’t a very restful evening. The bed was way too soft, our room looked out over an El line, and the air condition fan didn’t work so it was hot and muggy all night. In any case, we got up and showered. We went to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. I’d never been to one and I really don’t understand the hype. But whatever. We checked out of the hotel and headed to a second Marshalls that happened to be a block away from a Trader Joes. Parking for this was easier to find since we planned ahead knowing we’d need to park somewhere. The Marshalls store was much like the others we’ve been to. I did find some underwear though, so yay. We checked out the Trader Joe’s as well. I’d also never been there but a lot of the blogs I keep up with are by people who live in areas that have Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s around so I wanted to see what the buzz was about. It’s a neat place and I bought some apple rings and chocolate and Adam got a baklava sampler. Once again this prompted him to suggest that I make baklava. And once again I had to bring up the international meal that forever tarnished phyllo dough for me. Anyway, cool place. Too bad there aren’t any in the Fox Valley.

We hit another Marshalls out in Skokie (it had a parking lot! For free!) before heading to the Kohl Children’s Museum and the Kim and Scott’s Twisting CafĂ© (we had decided to forget trying to get to IKEA.) I’ve got to say that this was my favorite place we went. Even though we were only there for maybe 20 minutes, it’s such a neat concept and the atmosphere was so friendly. I got the chocolate pretzel and Adam had apple cinnamon. We also picked up a bunch from the freezer to bring home. The flavors available locally (at Walgreens) are limited, so it was good to find some of the other flavors we’d wanted to try. Yum. After the pretzel pit stop we went to one last Marshalls before heading back home. The drive back was pretty smooth. I don’t remember any horrible construction delays, but as it’s now construction season there was plenty encountered. We got back home around 3.

I unpacked, started laundry, caught up in Money on our vacation spending. Then we headed back out to Appleton and the PAC. We submitted our season ticket request for next year. We stopped for dinner on the way back home. Friday we ran a few other errands: got my ring inspected and re-tipped, went to Target, went grocery shopping, went to BBB. Saturday was a lazy day for me. Adam spent a good deal of it working outside. He filled in the garden patch in the back, added mulch to the front, put weedkiller on the lawn again, mowed the lawn. I’m probably missing some stuff. Sunday we went to another movie (Baby Mama - not as good as I expected, but ok) and spent the evening inside.

Monday night I had dinner at Culver’s with the ladies from bells. It’s such a fun group of ladies and everyone came, which was surprising. It was a good way to wrap up the year although there’s an “appreciation brunch” on June 1st as well. Tuesday night was the last IMA meeting of the year. It was a good meeting – interesting speakers, in fact so interesting that the second presenters went well over their hour and no one cared. Board meetings start June 3 so things will keep busy there. The rest of the week should be boring.

Movie-wise I watched two: The Golden Compass and Mad Money. The first was on the Oscar list. I’m not sure what to think. I know there was all kind of controversy over its subject matter and the Catholic church was all up in arms about it. Were they also against Harry Potter? I mean, he’s a wizard. Anyway, the movie itself was not terrible but really, not much happens, and without the sequel(s) it’s kind of a throw-away movie. Meh. Mad Money was not on the list but I had intended to see it eventually anyway. It got panned by critics but really, it’s a pretty funny movie. One of those “what ifs” played out for you. I’ve always enjoyed Diane Keaton and even Katie (oh, excuse me, Kate) Holmes’ airhead character provided some good moments.

I also started watching Romeo + Juliet (again) after rediscovering the soundtracks while cleaning out my CD library. I’d say that this film and The Wedding Singer have two of the best soundtracks ever (perhaps excluding films that are musicals, that is. And maybe A Beautiful Mind is one the list too.) Both required two discs, and both remain in my favorites, 12 and 10 years out respectively (oh my God, really? I suddenly feel old.) Anyway. I’ve got I’m Not There waiting to be watched and after that I’ve got 13 to go. Doing well.

So, that about gets everyone up to speed. Our holiday weekend looks to be pretty normal and boring. We've got some projects on the list (rearrange garage, rearrange rodent room, etc.) but nothing too exciting. Just hoping for decent weather so we can grill out at least once.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This weekend, and Vacation!

Aah! Not the Go-Go's! Make it stop!


This past weekend was a good weekend for movies. Only one was an Oscar movie, but it was still impressive that I managed to watch three movies in one weekend. I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly on Saturday evening. I was originally going to watch it Saturday afternoon when Adam went to work and before I had to leave for church. But I fell asleep. So, yeah, I watched it later. Once again I couldn’t get the subtitles to work (see: Pan’s Labyrinth) (I think this is DVD player problem) but luckily not only was this one in French (which, hey! I majored it so I should be able to understand) but I figured out I could turn the captions on on the TV and it gave me English. Kind of a good thing since there turned out to be some technical stuff that I would have gotten lost on. Overall, a good film. Interesting choices in direction, as a good 75% of the movie is shot from the perspective of a paraplegic who can see out of only his left eye. Anyway, kind of sad, kind of inspiring, that’s about it.

Movie #2 was Made of Honor, seen in the theater. Now, I don’t remember if this opened this weekend or last weekend, but Adam and I were two of six people watching this movie. Granted, it was 10AM on a Sunday morning so perhaps that attributed to the low turnout. Anyway, this movie wasn’t terrible, but it also didn’t have an original plot point in its entirety. Totally ripped off parts of My Best Friend’s Wedding, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Some Kind of Wonderful, and lots of other clichĂ©-y romantic comedies that fail to come to my mind right now. While I suppose some people find Patrick Dempsey to be fetching, the movie begins with a flashback to ten years ago and (according to Patrick’s interview on the "Rachael Ray Show" last week) apparently the actors were reverse-aged with computers and the result was just creepy. Kind of tainted the rest of the movie for me.

Finally, move #3 was Things We Lost in the Fire, rented when we returned movie #1. We had intended to see this movie when it was in the theaters but never got around to it. It definitely starts slow. Well, ok, so David Duchovny’s character dies within the first 2 minutes, but it takes a while for the plot to get into the swing of things. Once it gets going it was ok, but I seriously wanted to just give up until about 25 minutes into it. Halle Berry gets more sobbing and beating up men (see: Monster’s Ball, although she did more than beat guys up in that one. Ahem) and Benicio Del Toro gets more unflattering drug usage (See: Traffic.) *sigh* Really, not a terrible film, but not nearly as good as I was expected. And the kids? It took about an hour before I realized the older one was a girl. Not good.

So, other that waste time watching movies, this weekend was pretty dull. Friday night I made a chicken tortilla lasagna and we went grocery shopping. Saturday morning I took care of the rest of the shopping and got my hair cut. Adam worked a few hours in the afternoon while I napped and then went to play bells at church. Sunday morning we went to the movie and then took care of some errands on the way home. We spent the rest of the day at home doing various things, none of which were very interesting. We grilled out some chicken kabobs for dinner.

The rest of this week will be fun. Bright and early tomorrow morning we head to Chicago for two days. We plan to hit up the aquarium, field museum, and planetarium on Wednesday. We also plan to try and find The Frosted Mug, a drive-in Adam saw on a Food Network show. Thursday we’ll go to IKEA and maybe the Sears Tower. We also plan to stop at the Kohl’s Children’s Museum on the way back home to find some new flavors of Kim and Scott's Pretzels. We also might throw some Marshalls shopping in there since there are a bazillion of them in the Chicago area. We plan to be back home on Thursday night and we both have vacation on Friday as well. We hope to get our season tickets for the PAC’s 2008-2009 lineup at that time. This is my first vacation for the year so I’m looking forward to some time off (without being sick to get it.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

General Update (two weeks worth)

Last week was a doozy. Tuesday morning I woke up bright and early to head to Goodwill for our first ever breakfast IMA meeting. We had 17 people total which, in my mind, was a success. We only had 13 at our lunch meeting back in September. The speaker was dynamic and made it almost alright to be in a meeting at 7:30 in the morning. After the meeting I dropped my stuff back at home and headed in to work. I got there around 9:15. Not too bad. Wednesday was inventory day, the day my month-end fun starts. Inventory went well and for some reason there wasn’t a lot to count. On the one hand, that’s good since it means we get done quicker and there’s less for me to summarize. On the other hand, that’s bad since it means machines aren’t running. Hm. Anyway, the rest of week was busy with month-end work.

Adam (and everyone else at Convergys) got a long weekend when their system crashed. So there was no happy hour on Friday since they all went out on Thursday. And since Friday was day two (ie: Martha works until 6pm on day one and then goes back to work at 6:30am on day two so she can get her estimate done by 10am) there was no way I would be joining them in their carousing. Oh well. Saturday was spent doing some shopping, Adam put the poly on the window in the rodent room, and I don’t really remember what I did. Adam also built the shelving for the computer desk:

On Sunday Adam’s dad came over and the finished the workshop in the basement by installing the baseboards and also put up the brick-mold on the window that was missing it. Well, part of it. They sent 4 of the same pieces and we’re missing the bottom part. That should be coming soon and then the windows will be done. Adam put poly on the cat room window Sunday morning as well.

I cleaned critter cages and spent some time catching up on my DVR shows. We watched another Oscar movie as well: Transformers. Admittedly, not one I was excited about. But seriously, it’s a pretty good movie. It clocks in at 2 hours, 20 minutes. And it takes 1 hour and 6 minutes for them to even tell you what the plot is and another 1 hour and 6 minutes for good to triumph and the guy to get the girl. But it doesn’t feel like 2 hours and 20 minutes. The special effects are not distracting, which is something I’m always worried about with this sci-fi, cartoon-inspired movies. Shia LeBoeuf has some great lines and hilarious reaction shots. Not knowing anything about Transformers (I was more a Barbie and My Little Pony kid, although I do recall a massive amount of Micro Machines…) I was a little slow on the whole evil guys have red eyes thing. Anywho, even if you think this movie is probably stupid, go ahead and watch it. You might be surprised.

I also went through my CD collection and purged about 95% of it. I figure I've put all the songs I want from the CDs on the iPod, so why take up space (that we need for DVDs) with the CDs? Hopefully we'll get up to the media exchange place sometime soon to see if I'll make any money from them. I just trashed my cassettes.

Culinary adventures during the week were kind of limited since I was feeling totally lazy and tired. I think we went with leftovers for most of the week. Saturday night I made a duo of corny dishes: corn cakes and corn bites.

Sunday night was a pasta dish with ground turkey and leek. It was quite yummy.

Anyway, Monday night was the final handbell practice of the season. We ring this Saturday and we’re done. Next week we clean the bells and pack up the tables for the summer. The week after that we have our end of the season shindig and Culvers. Tuesday was relaxing and I spent the evening watching 27 Dresses while Adam watched wrestling in the living room. Wednesday night while cooking dinner I discovered we have an infestation of ants. Adam mowed the lawn when he got home, we ate (Cabbage with bacon and home fries

if you wanted to know), and then we headed to arm ourselves with the necessary items for a three prong attack against the insect invaders. Adam caulked the space between the counter/backsplash and the wall which is where we suspected the ants were getting in. We also set out four ant traps to catch anyone already inside. We tried to hide them among small appliances so that cats (well, ok, just JC) wouldn’t find them and try to eat them. They do smell like peanut butter… Third prong is some ant dust that Adam put outside last night. We’ll see how well our plan works. We had tickets to Spamalot yesterday and that was a lot of fun. Well rounded and offensive to pretty much everyone, chock full of Monty Python jokes and general hilarity. I didn't get to see Clay Aiken (ha) but it was still a good show.

This weekend doesn’t have a lot on my list. The normal shopping and cleaning is always there. I’ve got another Oscar movie waiting to be watched: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. No idea what it’s about. (Pause for a quick trip to IMDB) Hey, it’s French! Anyway, so I’m almost certain I’ll be watching that one alone.