Monday, October 31, 2011

Goals Year Two - Q1 Check In

Has it been three months already? Time to check in to see if I am on track to be able to complete my goals 9 months from now.

Culture Vulture
1. Read 15 books - I succeeded in this goal last year and thought I'd tackle it again. Between book club and random reads should hopefully not be a problem. Now as you read down the list at some of the other projects I am putting on tap for myself one might wonder when I will have time to read. . .
The Hunger Games - okay, consider me hooked.
The Paris Wife - Hemingway's First Wife Historical Fiction, call it "Loving Hem"

2. Watch 120 movies - time to expand the horizons even further! Maybe this will be the year I finish out the Woody Allen oeuvre.
Only 21 in. It was a sloooow fall with our impending move. I went a full month without seeing a movie. For shame, Lydia. Hopefully some winter hibernation tactics will make for more frequent viewing. I know our three free months of HBO, Showtime and Cinemax is helping!

3. Two trips to the theater - My sister and I take an annual trip to see a show and this winter A Christmas Story is going musical! Methinks tickets shall be purchased!

4. Visit two museums - culture me, Chicago, culture me.
8/13/11 - a trip to the Art Institute turned a little special - Bob and I got engaged!


5. Travel to three new cities - Will this finally be the year I make it to New Orleans? What about DC? Or a road trip through Maine? Big plans in my head, lets put something on the calendar.
I was in Charleston, SC in September and will hit San Antonio in a couple weeks. Yee haw!

6. Book an international trip - chant it with me now: London 2012! London 2012!
photo source
8/16/11 - the trip is booked! April 2012 here we come. . .

7. Have a day of fun and culture with my niece - she'll be coming up on three years old in May - time she got familiar with downtown Chicago! I think we might put off a trip to American Girl Place for another year though. No sense starting too early on that money train.

8. Walk the Willis Tower Ledge - I've been to the observatory deck of the then Sears Tower, but not since the glass box had been added. Face a fear and take the step out!


How Entertaining
9. Make a cheesecake - I have already borrowed the springform pan from sister. Time to try my hand at this new endeavor!

10. Bake bread - After reading through some recipes at a friend's house, I started to think that baking bread (without a breadmaker) was quite doable indeed. Challenge accepted: will it be sourdough or pumpernickel?

11. Love the crockpot - I loves me my meatballs recipe and chicken enchilada recipe, but lets get creative with the crockpot. 4 new recipes in this next year.
Made Taco Soup and a Sweet Chili in the last couple weeks. Recipes pending for blog inclusion!


12. Host 3 parties - Last year I took on 4, but with our impending move and a few months of potential dissaray at our casa makes me rethink how many we should commit to. I will tell you this - I am already planning a massive housewarming/holiday party come December!

13. Plan someone else's party - If I can't host at my house I'll take my business elsewhere. Calling on friends and family: bring on your baby shower, your bridal shower or your bar mitzvah and let me take a crack at it.


Health and Wellness
14. Drink more water - My name is Lydia and I am dehydrated. I have never loved water, the taste just doesn't appeal to me. But the positive effects can't be denied. I will try to commit to filling up a water bottle each day at least a couple times.

15. Run another 5K - time to get back out on the sidewalk and improve my game. When this intense heat finally goes the way of the buffalo I will strap back on the shoes and hit the pavement.

16. Go to the Dermatologist - This fair, freckled face should finally get checked out. Too many scary stories of skin cancer scares out there not to.

17. Build an Indoor Garden - is this health and wellness? I can't figure out what category it would go under. If the purchase of our next place goes through we may be sans outdoor space. How can I still incorporate some greenery?


Adventures in DIY
18. Build a craft table - because I can't bring myself to pay a fortune for this Pottery Barn beauty to the left, lets see how two bookshelves and my old IKEA Malm headboard look together.
Coming together. . .bought the two shelves for the edges as well as wheels and castors to make the table mobile!

19. Pinterest Projects - use the knowledge base and take on at least one new project a month based on the wonderful pins that make the world go round. 
Count 'em up with me: Thumbtack Vase Fillers, Egg Roll Wrapper Mozzerella Sticks, Yarn Wreath

20. Make a rug - Speaking of Pinterest projects, this one is a doozy. Do I have 60 manhours to commit to making this bad boy? Will I get two steps in and realize I don't know what I'm doing? We'll see what develops. . .

21. Make 100 cards - seems daunting at first, but considering I get about 25 out of the way come Christmastime I could be able to make this one happen.

22. Plan a renovation - this one has some considerations. a) We need to be in our next place. b) It needs to have enough wrong with it to look at totally rehabbing a room. c) we need to have some moolah saved up.


Professional and Personal Development
23. Join a networking group - For a person who works in association management, I haven't taken advantage of many career enhancing opportunities myself.

24. Do something with the Wisconsin Alumni Association - I miss my Badgers!
I did go to a Badger game in October. Does that count??

25. Volunteer once a month - keep it up with Chicago Cares, those little three year olds we read to are too adorable for words.
Knocked out signing up for three months at a time to close out the year with a Library Maintenance activity, Read With Me night with the little kids and making dinner at the Ronald McDonald House!

26. Donate to 3 charities/fundraising activities - Lets help some people out in the things they are fighting for, or fighting against.

27. Look into an Etsy shop - could I possibly turn some of my little endeavors into a selling opportunity? I'm not committing to anything, but will definitely look into what it might take to set up a shop and invest the time.

28. Learn how to use my camera - I really don't know what I am doing yet with my point and shoot. Time to make a change.
Oh my gosh - there is a setting for incandescent lighting! My indoor photos look 10 times better!

29. Implement video into the blog - I recently got a Sony Bloggie. Let's play.

30. 100 blog posts - with an impending home purchase this shouldn't be a problem at all. There has been a struggle to find enough quality stuff to write about the past few months once the old apartment was pretty much the exact way we wanted it. But the idea of a brand new place? Bring it on blog.
Up to 20. It was a slower fall here as well but I'm hoping to pick things back up!


31. Develop Adobe skills - Photoshop, thy will be tamed.

32. Wardrobe rehaul - now this is a fun goal: spend lots of money on clothes! It has been awhile since I invested in some new pieces. Already got a jump start by finding the perfect pair of jeans for Casual Friday at Gap this week.
photo source


Money Matters
33. Pay off one student loan - Sort of cheating on this one because I already have a plan to get my ECSI loan out of the way come August 1. I decided to take a little bit of extra cash I had and put it towards my smaller loan. After putting the extra minimum payment against my larger loan I should be able to get that one done with in 2012!
8/2/11 - one is done. Ahh, that felt good.


34. Increase percentage of 401K savings - I believe I am already on my way to a healthy retirement considering I was able to start my account at age 22 and take advantage of a company match. However, there is always room for a little more. Look at increasing by a percentage point or two to bring even more money my way when I am in my wisened older days.

35. Assess the portfolio - Do I know what that 401K really means? Not really. I haven't readdressed the investments I am working on in quite awhile so it may be time to make sure I'm doing the best for myself.

36. Find three ways to earn extra cash - And no, I won't turn to a life of crime. Working a street festival weekend, market research studies or simply selling off unwanted stuff can help me pad the bank account little by little. Bob and I are going to be able to buy our new bed for the next place based off of a three day weekend working at Lollapalooza!
photo source

8/7/11 - Now that was an exhausting 3 days but the money earned on Lollapalooza weekend will help pay for our new bedroom.
9/10/11 - Worked another fest - this time the Wells St. Fall Fest in a beer tent. Not a bad gig when Sixteen Candles, the 80s music cover band, is playing on the stage right next to you.
9/13/11 - Those focus group sign ups pay off with another one! $150 free in my pocket!


Finally
36.5 Be an excellent Aunt to one - no, make that two - little girls! With a new niece on the way this fall I have plenty of auntie love to go around.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baby Bookin' It

It is always good to have fun at work by getting together for a birthday celebration (where my co-workers excel at bringing in massive amounts of food for everyone!), a bowling happy hour or a baby shower for expectant mothers. I helped out in the planning on one such baby shower recently by organizing the "card" for us all to give. I use the term card loosely because we ended up putting together a book. This idea could be a fun one to use when you are organizing a "gift from all of us."

Full disclosure, I actually used this idea for another co-worker's baby shower, but we've had enough new people start in the last four years I don't think anyone noticed I recycled the project idea! The book was called, "What's in Store for Baby Huffman?" I started by soliciting my co-workers for a photo of them as a baby or small child "doing something" so that I could compare the action to something that the new baby might enjoy herself one day, like eating ice cream, being out on the boat or helping out in the kitchen. Coming up with a caption would have been much harder if I just had a portrait headshot to work with!
The book is from Michaels - I purchase these same photo albums to make my recipe books. Or, my one recipe book. The second one is sadly still in its early stages and not fit to share at this point!
Using a 10"x10" scrapbook paper set I already owned, I created a page for each baby photo. I also asked co-workers to provide me with a message to the mama when they submitted their photo. This was not only to have different colored paper peppered throughout, but also to reduce the stress of getting everyone to sign a card an hour before the baby shower!
I'm only sharing my page because I don't believe that my co-workers would appreciate their baby pictures strewn across the internet! A few of the others read, "Will she be future chef like Kristen was?" "Will she be a snazzy dresser like Becky was?" and "Will she be a little princess like Courtney was?"

We even had a fake baby or two in the mix - "Will her first words be 'Accio Baby Blanket!' like Harry Potter's were?" I should clarify that this baby is only fake in the sense that it is not one of my co-workers. This baby is likely quite real somewhere in the world and I apologize for using your image without consent, but you are just too darn cute Harry Potter Baby!
The last page of the book held a Land of Nod gift card and read:
Whatever she does, whoever she becomes, we know she'll be better off because she has you as her mom.

I left the original white pages from the album in between my pages so that the mother-to-be can reuse the book as a photo album in the future. Or, maybe she'll want to keep our photos in it forever and ever and her daughter will eventually ask, "who are all these people????"

The book was cute, but the cake was cuter - this isn't the actual cake, rather just the reference photo. My co-worker is neither Daisy nor Eduardo. Though we joked that we should have just included the names shown here when ordering. Please picture it in pink!
Thinking about a cake maker leaving on the sample names prompted me to check out cakewrecks.com. It had been awhile. Coincidentally, the homepage that day featured baby shower cakes. Have you ever seen anything creepier than a cake shaped like a belly with a protruding footprint? How about one with five seperate feet?? Holy Moses.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Higher Love*

When life gives you 17 foot tall ceilings, you have got to use the space wisely. So we were excited to learn that the second bedroom had a bike pulley system that Bob could use to hang his bike during the winter months. I love the idea of the bike being out of the way, but not just chillin' in the shared garage where it could too easily ride off without Bob at the helm.

Bonus points for finding Bob in the picture - he blends into the blue wall!

And the visually artistic aspect of the bike when you are in the living room is an added plus.
The same night Bob was strapping up the bike, we were getting the twin bed mattresses ready to move into the second bedroom. Our new king sized mattress had just been delivered so we did a switch out from our bedroom to prepare for Bob's family coming to visit a few days later. We knew the cats liked climbing vertical mattresses from our experience moving out of our last place, so it wasn't a huge surprise when I saw Fredo hanging out at the top of one when I went in to get some bike photos.
What was a surprise, however, was this.
Do you see what I see? Besides the horribly ripped up boxspring bottom, of course! Sonny used the other mattress to climb to the top of the room's wall and explore the tops of the kitchen cabinets. Also, if you are wondering why the top of the paint is so jagged and bad, we are relying on a professional painter to come in and finish the jobs we couldn't reach!
It didn't take long for Mr. Fredo to follow suit. Unfortunately, they didn't know how to get down, so I had to climb on the kitchen counters and do a "cat in a tree" rescue.
We decided to keep the door to the bedroom shut so we didn't have anything to worry about overnight. By the next day, the beds were put together and the cats' access was taken away from them.
In case you are thinking that those beds take up a whole lotta room, please know this is not the endgame plan. We are replacing the twin beds with a pull out couch type set up against one wall and I'm building a project table to create a workroom. A trip to IKEA this past weekend got me a little further on plans for that project. Of course, with impending friends and family over the next month, the beds might stay put rather than us impulse buy a couch we don't love.

How do you like the blue paint in the bedroom? We used Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint and Primer in One in Blue Chaise. Picture a crisp white project table and the shelf unit currently pictured also spray painted white, with some black and white photography up on the walls. Ooh, aah. . .does that get the creative juices flowing? Also, please picture a much more organized closet - yowza! With only one shelf at the top of the closet, we see potential to use up some wasted space by adding a shelf in between the floor and the top.

*The title of the post is taken from the awesome Steve Winwood song. The first night we stayed at the new place our silent unpacking (no TV or internet yet!) was suddenly peppered with the sounds of Higher Love blaring loud and clear from a neighboring apartment. Bob and I looked at each other and the next five or so years flashed in front of my eyes, "We are going to hear everything from every other condo!" Luckily, I love the song so it was a tolerable three minutes. I waited to hear would come through next, but was met with silence. A month later, we haven't heard another peep since, save for the occasional muffled footsteps of a child and/or dog running around upstairs. Strange. . . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wedding Belles

Inviting the lovely ladies in my life to be bridesmaids in my wedding seemed to be one of the first things to check off the planning list (a list that seems to keep growing!). I wanted to have a date and location nailed down before I did the invites, but after a certain point couldn't hold out any longer! We do tentatively have our date and location as we have a hold on a downtown Chicago locale for early next October. So with a small asterisk next to the date and location, I decided to go forward with an idea I had probably a year and a half ago for how to invite my girls.

It occured to me that I had been a bridesmaid for each of the three ladies I was planning on inviting. My sister in 2005, and my college friends Kara and Kari in 2008 and 2010 respectively. So I decided to set up a prop station that represented their individual wedding, put on the bridesmaid dress and carry a sign that said "Your Turn!"

Now, in my head this looked incredible. Perfect lighting, professional grade photography and photoshop fun. Reality being that I had let the nice weather pass so shooting outdoors in tiny dresses probably wasn't in the cards, I don't have photoshop and I'm only now finding settings on my camera that help me shoot indoors. . .

But in the end, I was very pleased with the results! Bob took some time out from painting the bedroom closet to run out into the living room and snap a few (or fifty) shots when I had the next set of props ready. Thanks B, couldn't have done it without you!

The first step involved finding the right backdrop in the apartment. With brick walls a-plenty, I focused on the area our dining room table was in as that seemed to have the best light.
After clearing out the space, I set up the prop area. A simple chair and end table were the constant through each photo. The Chicago poster we have framed seemed to be the right size for the "Your Turn" phrase, so I tested out a few snaps. I threw a few of my props on the table to make sure they would photograph well. Ideally I would have had a different color Izze soda than orange as it sort of blended into the table, but what can you do. The bottom shelf of the table was used for photos from each of the weddings that I either already had framed or could find in my scrapbooks.
To make the "Your Turn" sign, I originally wanted to make a fancy font printed out, or else replace the poster contents digitally within photoshop. What I ended up doing was making cut out letters that gave it a little more of a homespun feel - at least that is the time-crunch spin I am putting on it!
Costume time! My sister got married in Key West. I represented her wedding with key lime pie and a set of limes on the table. We tested out a few poses of me actually eating the cake. Spoiler alert: I do not look attractive eating a piece of cake. Here was the winning shot - fake eating! I wish the key lime pie had been bright green. I could be eating any old thing!
Next up, Kara's bluegrass Colorado wedding! I was kicking myself for not borrowing my sister's cowboy boots on the down low to represent the footwear Miss Kara wore with her own wedding dress. However, her wedding did feature Izze sodas during the ceremony and I still had the pashmina she gave all of her girls for that cool Colorado fall day.
Finally, Kari's classy Lake Geneva wedding decor (featured on the blog last fall!) was a hit with lanterns hanging above the reception tables and dozens of vases with jewel-toned flowers. Again, a pashmina received made an appearance as did a vase I actually had nabbed from one of the tables that evening. After several attempts at holding the lantern and looking dwarfed by a big red ball, I found a little screw in the wall above me and used some clear stuff to "hang it."
Once I got my three finalist photos developed at Walgreens the next day, I affixed them to blank cards with photo corners and asked "Will You Be My Bridesmaid" in the inside. A personalized note was added on stationary that I received as an engagement gift from a good friend: "Soon to be Mrs. Kamicar" - so cute!
Once they were ready to send, I shipped them off and waited for a response! By the end of the weekend I had three "yes's" on my hand, including one very creative reply from Kara - a photo via text of her holding a white board that read, "Of Course!"
One project crossed off the list, about a million more to go. Stay tuned on the blog for all of the details over this next year!

A few photo outtakes for fun:


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Mantle of One's Own

The thing I have longed for for so long is finally mine. . .a fireplace mantle to decorate! Goofy, I know, but at our last place the TV hung above the fireplace (not our idea) so there was not much that could fit in underneath the tube.

Shortly after unpacking the neccessities, the Halloween decor box came out of the storage area and the fireplace/sitting area was fall-ified.
I can't say I overdid it in the creativity department this year - check out last year's projects including a silhouette mirror, a spooky specimen table and some punch out halloween images. Instead, I went for simplicity this time around and threw it all together in one tableau.

The black candlesticks which already give off a Halloween-y vibe on their own were topped with autumnal candles. Love that little raven I found at a shop last year.
A glass hurricane was also filled with some straw and  pumpkins left over from last year's pumpkin patch scene (I may have overbought on a whim. . .). My little fabric ghost tops off the look.
And notice the little postcard leaning against the hurricane? How much do I love vintage holiday decor? A quick snapshot of my Pinterest holiday board:
Every year my sister's family and I hit up the Long Grove Apple Fest for cider donuts and apple pie. I also make sure to pick up a new decor item from the shops. This year I went outside the box of the usual papier maiche ghosts and goblins and found this adorable kitty on a spider. I thought he had the perfect vintage feel to add to the collection.
Of course, I can't forget about my Holiday Blocks I spent a couple weekends this summer making. Time for "Happy Halloween" to make an appearance. I have to dig out my stamp collection and replace the "Happy Fall Y'all" maple leaf with a pumpkin or haunted house stamp that will fit in the space.
So there we have it - while the background of hot pinks and greens may not scream Halloween, I am happy to be ringing in the season with my decor out on display!

For past posts on all things Halloween including costumes, pumpkin carving, decor and more - click here!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Painting Party

Boldly Going Where We Have Never Gone Before. . .

That should be the theme of our new place when it comes to paint colors. We are dealing with a whole lotta wall in our place, what with the 17 foot ceilings and all. And while you might think neutral colors might be the best bet for this scale, Bob and I are shaking our heads at that concept.

The colors we finalized after some soul searching and sample application include Pesto for the hallway. You can see a swatch of "Desert Cactus" which in the end ended up being just too light. I should mention that all of our paint is Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint and Primer in One. I love that stuff.
 We have only made progress on this one hallway wall so far, and it needs some touch-ups itself. Here's a shot of how it looks walking in, and also how messy our hallway is! It does not look that neon in person though.

Our mattress delivery guy from the weekend complimented the color so I feel like we are on the right track. . .
Right on the other side of that green wall is our second bedroom. We also found ourselves going darker than the original sample color we had in mind. Picking Blue Chaise over Ocean Cruise. Sorry for the dark photo - I'll get a couple better ones to share. And, keeping up with the trend of messiness - does this look like a room ready to host people in the next two days? A lot of work to do between now and then!


When it comes to the tippy-tops of the walls, we will be calling in an expert painter to balance on a ladder and cut in the top so we don't have to kill ourselves. Make that, so Bob doesn't have to kill himself while I try to hold the ladder without success.

The other interesting thing with the blue is that the second bedroom is not walled in, so you can see the tops from the living room. This means we will want to be careful in choosing a kitchen color that complements it.
Our bedroom inspiration is warm Moroccan colors, so we started looking at those in the orange family for our one wall in the room that isn't brick (the closet). Per usual, the sample paint we had picked up was just too light, so we went a shade darker. Replace Orange Spice with Poppy Glow and here's what you have:
Bob spent last night dismantling the exisiting Elfa system in the closet and painting the inside walls. Now that is one cheery color!
So we are definitely in a "work in progress" world right now. It has been nice to live with the colors for a couple weeks and settle into them before we tackle the rest. It's a big job, and the kitchen color is still a bit of a question mark, but we're having fun!


Here are a couple extra shots to show some scale of the place with our furniture in place:
Now those are two very full bookshelves. . .luckily we have an IKEA trip coming up to add another Billy to the mix! And yes, the Halloween decor was one of the first boxes unpacked. Expect a write up very shortly on this year's additions!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hallowreath

The obsession with yarn wreaths has gone beyond nurseries and expanded into the holidays! Fresh off the heels of making a lovely little wreath for my friend's baby shower, I embarked on a wreath featuring some bolder colors and spooky accents as a gift for my sister.

Orange and black yarn, a glue gun, wreath form and some Martha Stewart stickers were all it took to create this one. Simplicity at its finest.
 I have one more wreath form at home and now I own a whole lotta yarn. . . what shall be next?

This marks the first Halloween themed post of the season! I spent Sunday decorating our mantle and "library area." Stay tuned for pics! I may have boxes and boxes left to unpack in the new place, but at least the fall decor is in place!