Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tri, Tri, Tri Again

He did it again. Bob found himself signing up for his second sprint triathlon this summer. With a steady training schedule and some new bike equipment including fancy pedal shoes, he shaved 11 minutes off of his 2010 time. Good on ya Bob!

There he goes in the red shirt - zoom!
Congratulations to our friends who swam, ran and biked. Here's Bob with his college friend Brian in front of a lovely Chicago backdrop.  And while I saw another friend or two running by, I did not catch our Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Although neither did Bob - the Mayor beat his time by 5 minutes!
This also marks the start of the second cycle of the "how to get Lydia to exercise" bet we established last year. When Bob completed the tri I promptly purchased running shoes and crossed a 5K off the list a couple months later.

The fall weather is upon us - I know this because I am no longer dying of heat stroke in our bedroom if our fan isn't on full blast (oh central air, I miss you. Please come back to me soon in the form of our new place). Fall means I can run outside and not get too overheated. I am a baby about things like that. Time to kick the running program into gear. 

Leading up to what 5K though? How about a Turkey Trot over Thanksgiving? My brother in law is already gung ho and the only thing that would prevent our follow through is if my sister decides to go into labor too close to the starting time. Now, if the sound of the starter pistol going off is what sends her into labor that could be a whole other story. Do they even use starter pistols anymore? I have a feeling those have been banned and replaced with an mp3 of a loud noise.

Sneak Peek:
FiancĂ©e. Pop Culture Enthusiast. Homeowner. 

I am only 2 of those things currently but all that should change come September 26. . .can't wait to share more. . . .

. . .and I probably just jinxed myself and the bank deal is going to fall through.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baby Shower Power

Now before you jump to conclusions and assume my writing about babies is in any way tied to my recent engagement. . .

With a number of pregnancies coming to a head this fall from friends, sibling and co-workers, I thought I would share some Baby Shower ideas and gift options to help the parents to be say, "ooh, ahh!" even before the little one arrives.

A year ago I wrote about some out of the box Wedding Gift ideas. Continuing that tradition, here's a few culled from internet searching and the imagination focused on a new baby:

Keep 'em Fed! - My sister and I take advantage of a Dream Dinners service every few months - you put together freezer meals that can be easily thawed out or even cooked frozen for those days when planning a whole meal is altogether too much. I wrote a post about it here. Bob and I offered up an order to some friends who are about to welcome a little one so that they could "fill their bellies while they are busy with baby." I made the meals up this past weekend and we dropped them off into the friends' freezer - almost just in the nick of time as that due date approaches!
Special Service - Along the lines of stocking up their freezer, focusing on the parents rather than the baby could be a nice change of pace. You just know that kid is going to get spoiled rotten with onesies, little outfits and toys galore, what about giving a massage package, a maid service gift certificate or even a pack of movie vouchers with promises to babysit?

Take a Tub - I like buying up the baby tub from the registry and filling it with fun baby shampoos, toys and even a few bath related things they might be able to enjoy when they are a bit older - who else had the bath crayons like I did?? You can also find bath nozzle covers to help keep noggins bump free as baby gets more exploratory.

Je m'appelle Sophie - I love Sophie the Giraffe. Not just because she is one of the cutest toys I have ever seen and not only because she's french, but also because she gets great reviews from those mommies dealing with a teething baby.

And because the obsession with Pinterest continues. Check out a couple unique gift ideas:

I see these font-riffic frames popping up everywhere on the site. While you won't know the details at the Baby Shower (unless you are an amazing at guessing), you could get the parents to be a gift certificate for an artist who can make something similar or for a site that offers canvases of any photo or image you send in so they can figure out their own direction.

A personalized book to help tie back words like "mommy" and "daddy" to the real life people is really just too cute.
Are you the one planning the baby shower? Check out some ideas from the project that started this ole blog - the baby shower we organized for my sister back in 2009 (invites, games, food, prizes and decor). With a rambunctious 2 year old running around our legs nowadays this seems so long ago. . .

Bonus Section:
What is your favorite funny onesie saying? It is kind of odd the saucy stuff we force our babies to "say" when you really think about it. Poor innocent little things:
- All Mommy Wanted Was a Backrub
- I'm Too Sexy for My Diaper
- This is What Happens in Las Vegas
and don't even get me started on their obsession with boobs!

It is sort of comparable to dressing your cat or dog up in outfits, except your pet is never going to grow up, find the photos and get hugely embarrased.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Engaging Tale

Well, here's some news. . .

Lydia and Bob got engaged over the weekend!

Yes, he put a ring on it. And the proposal was a complete surprise to me - the boy did good in keeping a secret. Here's the story of how it went down.

We had decided to visit the Art Institute on Saturday morning to get our culture on - it is one of my annual goals to visit two museums after all. I had a membership (the first Groupon I ever bought) that lasted a year and I never actually used it. So over another year later I thought it might be time to check it out. Bob says he started planting the seeds a couple weeks ago mentioning how I hadn't used the membership and getting us to plan a day to go. That sly fox.

The special exhibit was "Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters" from World War II. Now doesn't this banner evoke images of romance? It was actually a pretty cool display - I can now say I have walked through a gallery called "Belligerent Encounters: Graphic Chronicles of War and Revolution, 1500-1945." The exhibit is up through late October - check it out if you get the chance. TIP: Chicago Residents who can show an ID with a local address get $2 off the ticket price.
I did notice Bob was texting a lot during the day - a pet peeve of mine is when someone is glued to their phone. He said it was a work thing and was convincing enough. But there was another reason he was texting. . .

On the way out of the museum we walked through the Modern Wing and took the bridge across to Millennium Park. I didn't know at the time, but am now glad I snapped a few shots from the day.
See that garden in the lower corner of the photo? Keep that in mind.
We walked through the park and headed into the garden area. I noticed a bench full of vases of flowers and said, "oh, can you just take these?" Bob said, "well, you can." When I turned around to face him he was on his knee with a box in his hand.
Surprised to say the least, the next few seconds felt a bit unreal. He said some sweet sentiments and after a "yes" came out of my mouth I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye.
Our friend was across the way with a camera in hand, he was trying to duck away from my glance, but the jig was up. Bob had enlisted friends to set up the bench with the flowers ahead of time and scope the place out for him. This also meant we got the unique pleasure of having the entire proposal captured on film. Apparently this was a "Plan B." The first choice was the mini-golf course in the park with the flowers on one of the greens. The course was closed when he did a "site visit" but you could still get into it. However, there were now workers in the course which would probably put a damper on the whole romantic vibe.

So the paparazzi shot on, and we got ourselves a few instant engagement shots! 
I don't wear jewelry so Bob had nothing to check my ring size against. It runs a little big on me right now so we'll need to get it re-sized. That isn't stopping me from wearing it though - just being very protective so it doesn't fall off as I'm crossing the bridge or stepping off the red line. . .this is not the best photo of the ring. . .I'll get Bob to do a write up about how he picked out the ring and show off some better angles soon.
And the surprises didn't stop there - Bob had booked a room at the Sofitel downtown, a hotel he had always admired architecturally and we had wanted to check out. Our other friends were also in on the plans and had checked into the room early to set up champagne and an overnight bag Bob had packed for us without my knowledge (that explains why he sent me out to the 7-11 the night before to get some sodas. . .).

We grabbed a cab and not 2 seconds later it started to downpour - talk about luck of timing for the young man's plans! We checked into the hotel, made some happy phone calls and relaxed before going out for a sushi dinner. 

When we were checked in we were asked what brought us to the hotel so we said how we just got engaged. A nice surprise of chocolate covered strawberries awaited us when we got back that evening. So sweet.
Brunch the next morning at Tavern on Rush capped it all off before we headed back to our neighborhood and back to reality. A few more calls, a few more facebook posts and a few more tweets and it was all starting to sink in!

I don't know that we are ready to pick a date and get the show on the road just yet, but it is fun to start thinking about it all. I would keep an eye on the "wedding" category on this blog sidebar if I were you - methinks it is going to start growing in size. . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

IKEA Dreamin'

The 2012 IKEA catalog is out! I spent a lovely Monday off of work perusing the pages and thinking on what areas of our next place we will want to IKEA-ify.

There is definitely a need to balance the purchases so that your house does not turn into a showroom, a problem my friend and I were just discussing this week. However, I think even if you end up with a few of your larger pieces from the same store, the accessories you use to personalize the areas can make all the difference. In another example, I saw on an IKEA Hackers post how the kitchen cabinetry was spiced up with new hardware. Coincidentally, younghouselove just wrote about the issue this week when they decided to forgo the standard IKEA hardware for something a little special.

So as a fitting sequel to my ultra-pricey Modern Design inspiration post, here are some of the more affordable pieces that struck a chord.

At $249, the Bjursta sideboard could make a great statement as our buffet table. My goal for the buffet is to have one side focused on "the bar" with floating shelves above it. The other side would have a large piece of artwork on the wall behind and be reserved for party food. One area of concern is the dark wood color - our media center, bookshelves and still-to-buy-but-we-know-what-we-want dining table will also be very dark, so maybe this is the area where we spice up the color?
Although, the dark color issue could be solved if we go this route with our dining chairs. . .pops of hot pink anyone? The Bernhard Chairs - I wonder if they look more red in person. I feel like I am always seeing a jolt of hot pink in design mags that I'm reading. Do we dare?
Fell in love with this idea. We own a lot of puzzles and would love to do one sometime, but our krazy kitties would probably put a damper on our puzzle progress. Putting any  kind of shelf or countertop or headboard on wheels just tall enough to fit under the couch - brilliant!
The wheels in the photo caused the wheels in my head to turn. I have a vision of turning my MALM headboard from my discarded full size bed into the top of a craft table. Since this table would take up room in our office/guest bedroom, the idea of putting the thing on wheels would mean we coul push it out of the way when we needed to set up the bed for incoming guests. If we put a mirror up at the right height against one wall, the table pushed underneath it would look like a regular ole vanity.

This would also solve my dilemma of wanting the table to be at least 36" high and the Expedit 4 square shelves only hit at about 31". The wheels will add the extra few inches and as long as there is a reliable locking mechanism shouldn't cause any issues with it suddenly rolling away from me as I try to work.

Now my only concern will be that the lightweight Expedit shelves will be able to hold up under the weight of the headboard. Anyone out there already attempt something similar and find success (or failure)?
Finally, inspiration struck as I was reviewing the IKEA Hackers website and saw a headboard made out of LACK side tables. The LACK side table has to be one the most frequently used items for hacking. Maybe it is more fun because the words rhyme?

Anyways, we later saw a back panel TV stand at one of the Modern Design stores we were exploring and the idea started to form. This is not the same one, but gives you an idea of what we are thinking:
The challenge is that we do not want to invest in a new media center as the one we picked up from IKEA a couple years ago suits us well. I also don't really want to attempt to paint it to match whatever back panel we ended up finding.
The LACK side tables can be purchased in the black-brown color that our bookselves and media center came in. If we carefully connect 4 of the table tops across and 2 deep for behind the TV and 2 more square panels for the bottom corner we would have total coverage behind the unit and have room to add a few LACK floating shelves for decorative elements on the side.

My question, however, remains the same as that I have for the Expedit cubes. Will the LACK side table tops be strong enough to hold up a shelf and the few pounds of weight on it? We would not try to mount the TV on the wall, it would stay standing on the media center. That sounds like a little too much pressure to put on the little LACKs.

So here ends the IKEA inspiration. Now we need to find a weekend, and maybe an extra vehicle, to head out to the 'burbs and buy the place out.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fried-ay Night Dinner

Before you read this post you might want to grab some carrots or apples or other healthy type food to eat while reading because this will not inspire nutritious habits. . .

About a month ago we ordered mozzarella sticks as our appetizer at the Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brew Co. in Wisconsin Dells. Expecting the typical breaded covering that starts off strong and by the end I scrape off to just get right to the cheese, color me surprised when crispy egg roll type concoctions landed on our table. Delicious.

Then, after getting thoroughly addicted to Pinterest, I saw these:
Following the recipe I realized just how simple they could be to make: egg roll wrappers + string cheese = yum.

So I stopped at the store to get the two ingredients. Unfortunately, it was about a week before we were going to have a chance to make these at home and my "string cheese issues" reared their ugly head (not to be confused with the band The String Cheese Incident). See, I can't let myself buy string cheese because I end up eating them all in about two days. It is truly a problem. So that package of 12 quickly disappeared and we had to buy another pack later that week.

We decided to make it a fried food night considering we had no other ideas for dinner to accompany our mozz sticks and we had 20 egg roll wrappers to use up. I started looking around for creative uses for the wrappers and was not disappointed. Pizza egg rolls, cheeseburger egg rolls, dessert egg rolls. . . .you can apparantly do anything with these things!

We ended up going a more traditional route for our additions: pork egg rolls and crab rangoon. This was partly because we already had several of the ingredients on hand at home.

Crab Rangoon - canned crab meat mixed with chive and onion cream cheese
Pork Egg Rolls - pork sausage, fried and drained (if needed) mixed with a dash of ginger, a dash of garlic powder and layered with cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix.

After frying pork sausage, mixing cream cheese and crab and opening the string cheeses, we got to work on the wrapping.
After heating the canola oil, each piece took anywhere from 60 seconds to 20 seconds to develop a deep brown color. After drying on paper towel to try to de-grease as much as possible, we dug in.
All in all a success - in retrospect, we should have cut down on the size of the wrappers that covered the string cheeses. Too many layers meant that while the outside was nice and crispy, the insides did not get hit hard enough during their short time in the hot oil. Or, we just let the oil get too hot considering the cheeses were the last things to be fried.

The pizza egg rolls and dessert egg rolls are still on my list (check out this recipe for S'Mores Egg Rolls!), so I'm sure we will have another fried food night in our future. In the meantime, I think I'll pop a Tums and find a few healthy options for our next few meals.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Modern Love

We found ourselves with a little time between the end of work and a 7pm meeting one night this week, so Bob and I decided to grab a little inspiration courtesy of downtown Chicago. The surrounding area of Merchandise Mart - as well as the Mart itself - is home to countless modern design stores. Most of which foster furniture with prices that won't allow the pieces to come home with us anytime soon, but getting an eye for new trends and what we like is priceless. There are even some surprised along the way when some pieces are more reasonably priced than one might assume.

We hit up Orange Skin on Erie Street and immediately fell in love with this table. Called Big Irony by Maurizio Peregalli, it is a sheet steel with a black phosphatized finish. This means the table changes over time as the elements play together. A quick glance at the grainy top makes you think of wood, but the industrial look fits in perfectly with the image we want to create. This link contains a more detailed description. How great would a pop of orange look on this table?
Next up was Poliform. A chair in the window caught our eye and we headed inside to get a better look. The Camilla Chair - pictures of two of these nestled together in front of a fireplace danced in my head. Finding this photo online just reinforces that. We are looking for equal parts comfy reading chair and sophisticated conversation corner. I think we might have hit the nail on the head here.
And although we weren't quite as bowled over by individual pieces we found at Ligne Roset on Wells St., you have to hand it to them for some eye-catching design. Like this bookshelf called Lines by Peter Maly.
We also got the message loud and clear: shag rugs are where its at. I am going to try my hand at making one courtesy some Pinterest Inspiration (Pinspiration), but the unique Pebble Chamois caught our eye at Mobili Mobel on Wells. A bit on the strange to look at, but one of the softest rugs I have ever stepped foot on. You can also pick these up as pillows.
You can bet that I've already been pinning a few items to my New Home Inspiration Board. Counting down the days until we can start filling up a place!