Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
Last week Steven and I went for a walk in the park. I knew a veterans memorial had just been unveiled, but I didn't know how cool it would be! It was made in a timeline with a giant granite wall for each decade. Each wall had information about the war fought in that decade (there was only ONE decade where no war was happening since the birth of our country). It also shared how North Carolinians were involved in the wars. It was sad and fascinating all at the same time! 

--- 2 ---
I've been feeling the call to get involved with faith formation ever since I stopped in 2010. I'm kind of hard headed though, so God really had to put a bug in my ear to get me to agree. I knew it was meant to be when my parish had a section in the bulletin asking for people to work with children with special needs. Since I work with adults with special needs as a career, I just knew this was God saying "Hellloooooo.... yes you!". I emailed the lady who heads up faith formation, and have met with her twice since then. I'll be helping a little boy who will be preparing for his first Eucharist and first reconciliation. So intimidating, but a huge honor, too! Our church has some awesome materials!!! This one is cute, colorful, and well put together, and is only $60. Since it can be reused, I think it's a steal, and all parishes should get a set!

--- 3 ---
My favorite part? The line in the book that says, "You might think Jesus tastes yucky, and that's ok". Haha! I also reviewed the Rose F. Kennedy program, which is crazy old, but still SO relevant! In fact, all these materials would be pretty good for typically-abled children, too! I'm glad God gave me the push because I'm super excited to give back again (and um, I just NEED to be giving back).

--- 4 ---
Steven is off tomorrow- WOOHOO! First we said we wouldn't make plans. Now our day will include: a trip to a 50% off thrift store, trip to Verizon to cancel my old plan, church, dinner at Guasaca (South American, sooo yummy and gluten free!), and seeing Paul Reiser at a comedy club. Yeah, our day is going to SPEED by but it'll be fun. Also, does the fact that we love Paul Reiser make us old? We read Couplehood on our honeymoon and LOVED it. Steven is a huge Mad About You Fan, so as soon as I saw he was coming to town, I knew we had to go!

--- 5 ---
A little farm market opened up in one of my town's downtown buildings. Our downtown is SO TEENY TINY. It's a cute, country looking downtown with not much in it. The good news is that downtown Raleigh is about 10 minutes from our house, so we get the best of both worlds! Anyway, they have been working to improve our town's downtown, and this little market is definitely taking it in the right direction! The farm is about 90 minutes away but they come to Raleigh 7 days a week for the state Farmer's Market anyway, so now they just drop produce, other grocery items (homemade jams, etc), and a worker off at the little downtown store! We bought a bell peppers, a whole chicken and ribeye steaks, PLUS two gifts of their handmade items for $30. And the meat is cage free/hormone free/antibiotic free! We'll definitely be going there a lot!

--- 6 ---
New favorite song!!!! It's not actually new, but new to me. Ignore the video. It's kind of freaky. And yeah, I have a slightly.... interesting taste in music. Ever listened to Bon Iver? Love! My pandora ranges from Christmas music, to the artists I just listed, to Catholic hymns lol. 

 --- 7 ---
Friday question alert! Building off 6, if you had to pick just ONE artist to suggest to me, of ANY type of music genre, who would it be? I want to build my playlist up a little more! 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Little Hobby That Could

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post; however, all opinions are my own!

I used Grammarly to edit this post because even college grads need a little help sometimes! (But do know that I didn't accept all the changes so that it will still sound like 'me'. Don't hold it against Grammarly!)

Lately, I've had trouble making time for reading. When I was little, I would read for hours. I would finish entire books in a day. Remember the Babysitters Club? Yeah, I would plow through those books all summer! And Goosebumps. Oh man, those were the days. Then, during college, I read a lot less. I don't know about you, but I just couldn't find time for pleasure reading when I was reading so much every day for class. It got worse in grad school because the academic reading increased a lot. It was enjoyable reading because I loved the subject, but just not the same as losing oneself in a good fiction book.

The summer I moved to Raleigh, I didn't know anyone! Literally, I didn't know a single person. I didn't yet have a job and basically had all the time in the world at my hands. I didn't have cable. It's like the perfect storm of a reading fest. Except I didn't read. I dug out seasons of tv shows I had and spent the summer watching those, Redbox, and Netflix. Don't worry, I did other things, too! I just did not do much reading. Since that point, over the past 4 years, I've been doing a little more reading. When I get into a book, I think " old friend". But after that one's over, I have trouble picking another book up. Life just gets so busy! But part of it is that watching tv and being online are just so much easier. My husband pointed out that I do a lot of reading online. He's correct, but it's still different. I'm reading short blog posts here and there, short news articles here and there. But I'm never losing myself in something for hours, days, or weeks at a time the way I do with a book. Fast forward 4 years.

I realized the other night when we were reading the Catechism that I seemed to have lost my ability to truly focus while I read. It's of my own doing, and I'm guessing it is one of those "use it or lose it" situations. It's like my reading comprehension has just gone out the window. So I'm resolving to start picking books back up again! It's good for my soul, it's great entertainment, and it is so healthy for my brain. Hey, maybe it'll even help my slowly sliding grammar (which I'll have you know I just typed as 'grammer'... yeah). If I don't do it now, I'll never do it when we have little ones running around the house! This is one of those things I'll have to schedule until it becomes a habit or until I fall in love with a book, but that's ok! I have two bookshelves full of tantalizing reads, so I'm not sure yet what I'll pick, but I'll report back when I do choose one! 

Now a word about my sponsor, but don't miss my question at the bottom, because I love your feedback!

More about the sponsor of this post, Grammarly: I try to proofread my posts, but I tend to only catch mistakes after they post. So then I have to go back, edit, and update the post. Not a huge deal, but it can be annoying, especially if I don't read a post of mine for days after. Then I have one of those *headdesk* moments wondering if people think I don't know the rules of grammar or basic spelling! Luckily, Blogger has spellcheck, but it ends there. So I wrote this post in Grammarly, which caught my mistakes for me. It actually gives you a percentage out of 100, which I refuse to share here due to sheer embarrassment. I think the program would be great for children writing for school and/or for homeschoolers because it tells you why your grammar is incorrect, rather than just correcting it. In fact, you also have the opportunity to fix it without being told the answer, which would be good practice for children learning the rules of grammar! It'd be equally helpful for high school or college students! Grammarly has also got an excellent interface and is very user friendly. You can either use it online or download it to your computer. You can type right into the program, or copy and paste what you've already worked on. When it finds errors, you can choose to read the short explanation or the long explanation. You can have it edit for specific writing styles like casual, creative, or business; and, of course, there is a general option. Who doesn't love options!? If you are looking for a grammar check program for yourself or your family, check them out!

What's your relationship with books? How do you make time for reading in an active life, especially if you have kids? 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Quality Time on Non-Traditional Schedules

I always imagined that I'd grow up, get married, stay home with my babies and my husband would work 9-5. Then for a while when we thought I'd work while having kids, I imagined us both working 9-5 and then spending the evenings together with the family. You know, like most families do. Then I realized that what I had growing up was not what all, or even most, families experience. And then I met my husband who worked varying shifts between 6-3, 10-6, and 4-midnight. For a while, it was really hard for me to reconcile in my head. The first year or so that we were together, our 'plan' was that we'd both work after we were married and had kids. His work schedule really stressed me out because all I could think about was how most of the household duties would probably fall to me with his schedule, including lots of the evening things like PTA meetings and other school events. For a while, I pushed him pretty hard to find a more traditional scheduled job, and he worked really hard but nothing worth accepting came about. Once we decided that our 'plan' is for me to stay home and homeschool, his job made total sense. If the children and I are always home, it doesn't really matter what hours he is working.... we'll be with him when he's not, and I'll do the chores/the kids will do their schooling while he's at work. Maybe not the rigid routine I do well with, but it could totally work for our family.

Let me take a quick break to tell you why I say 'plan' instead of plan. I have learned the hard way that God's plan and my plan tend to be different, and that, no matter how much I previously thought I could foretell the future.... I can't. So yes, our 'plan' now is for us to have babies, me to stay home, and for them to be homeschooled but I am 100% open to God's plan which could mean children or not, me staying home or not, the kids being homeschooled or not. Who knows? We will continue with what we think God's plan for us is until the point if/when we figure out otherwise.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Where were we? Oh, spouses working non-traditional hours. So Steven got a promotion last year and his hours are different and longer. His current shifts are 6:30am-5pm, 9am-7pm, or 2pm-11pm. This actually works out to me seeing him a bit more than I used to since he is home by 6 when he gets off at 5, and he tends to work the open shift more than the other 2. But when he gets off at 7, he's at least not home until 8... once we eat dinner and clean up, the night is pretty much shot. And on a closing night, we don't even see each other because I leave around 8:30 and don't come home until after he's gone to work for the day, and he gets home an hour or two after I've gone to bed.

Hanging out on the porch. Unfortunately, it rarely involves pizza!

So what can couples do when they work different and, sometimes, opposing schedules? We have to be a bit more creative because we can't take it for granted that we're going to see each other 7 nights a week, or that we will always both be home at X time. Every day is different. I might get home at 4pm one day and he is getting home at midnight from a close shift. I might get home at 5pm one day and he is getting home at 8pm from a mid shift. It's hard to have a routine when our days vary every time. It's hard to plan dinner or evening activities, at least without doing it last minute. More importantly, it's sometimes hard to fit in quality 'couple time' because we get caught up in what needs to get done once we are both home. But here are some things we've discovered through trial and error (*ahem* lots of it!) that help us maximize our time together, or that help us create time together when we're really feeling like we're missing out on it:

  • Get chores done when the other person isn't home, to maximize our time together when we're both home. We were both bad about this for a while, because we enjoyed having the other person home doing their own chores as we did ours. Misery loves company? ;) But then we realized what a wasted opportunity for quality time together it was! 
  • In that vein, have specified chores if you need them. This works well for us because I don't have to ask Steven to do certain chores. He just has certain things he does and I have certain things I do. This way, we are really efficient with stuff around the house which of course allows more free time to have fun together! On a day where he closes, he will most likely do his cleaning during the day, and I'll do mine that night when I get home. Then the next evening when we are home together, we have the whole evening to relax! House cleaning was one of those things we used to do together, and now we always save it for his closing night, so our cleaning day changes each week.
  • Help your spouse out! I've had to suck up some extra chores around the house now that Steven is working 50+ hours per week. If I don't, then he comes straight home and is still having to do laundry, while I've possibly been sitting for a few hours after work waiting on him to come home. Well, if I don't help, now I'm sitting here another hour waiting on him to finish laundry AND he is getting even more exhausted doing laundry after a long day's work. Then I'm anxious because I want to spend time together, and he can barely keep his eyes open by that point. It's a bad combination and life is so much better for both of us when we work hard to ease each other's load (it goes both ways- Steven will empty the dishwasher, my chore, on a day where he is off and I'm at work all day, so I don't have to spend time doing it when I get home.)
  • If you find yourselves wasting too much time on the computer (or tv if that's an issue), schedule things you want to do together. We both love the internet and can eat up an entire evening doing our own things on our computers without even realizing it. When we both have a rare day off together, it doesn't matter as much because we've most likely spent the last 8 hours together interacting. But when we only have 2 hours together in a day, using it all on the computer is not a wise decision for our marriage. So we will often times sit down to the computer and one of us will say something like "You want to have computer time for 30 minutes and then have together time?". During together time, we either watch a tv show we've been following together and enjoy a nice couch cuddle, or play board games, or just sit and talk. It's so important to us to feel like we had time to connect at some point during the day.
  • Go for a walk, even a quick one. It helps us sleep better, helps Steven relieve some job stress, and gives us time to talk. We'll sometimes follow it up with a little time on the front porch. It doesn't matter if it's cold out by the time he gets home, we can bundle up really well and take a night time walk! And on hot summer days, an evening walk is actually a better choice anyway.
Sometimes we go for a quick drive together, and more likely than not we end up with an ice cream treat! 

I know from reading lots of your blogs that you also have varying schedules from your spouses. What are some things you do to make sure you are connecting and spending quality time together even when you are sometimes two ships passing in the night? I'm especially interested to hear from those of you who have kids because I would imagine that makes it a lot harder!  How do you maximize parent/kid time if their/your schedules are different? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
This is my third post this week, which is actually kind of a record. For the last month or so, I have just not been into blogging! I feel like my mojo might be coming back, so watch out! If you missed my posts this week, I posted some amazing pictures of our trip to Alaska, and also wrote about Steven and I deciding to go gluten free, at least for a trial period.

--- 2 ---
Speaking of gluten free, I already get an F. Although I feel pretty innocent on this one. I met with a friend at a local restaurant for dinner on Wednesday. Local restaurants are a bit more tricky as far as gluten free goes, but I thoroughly studied their menu ahead of time to see what I could eat. I ended up deciding on their shrimp platter, which was described as shrimp, greek salad, and fries. I thought, oh goody, shrimp and salad are healthy and then I get a fry treat! Well, I ordered it and when it came up, the shrimp were fried! Maybe I should have assumed that, but I'm very new to eating shrimp, and I would have thought the menu would have said "breaded and fried" or something like that. So... week one = contamination. (Technically we are contaminated by the Eucharist but it just feels so wrong to use those words together in the same sentence!)

--- 3 ---
Remember how I said I was ditching Verizon due to them being super crappy about the lemon phone they gave me 2 years ago? Yeah, Boost was even more of a disaster. So now I'm out the one month cost, plus the shipping for sending the phone back. FRUGAL FAIL! Lesson learned. I am going to end my Verizon contract, and we added me to Steven's so we are still saving $25 a month. Not as much as with Boost, but hey- at least I can go back to making/receiving calls at home! 

--- 4 ---
I met this little guy in Glacier Bay, Alaska. It really got me thinking... why do some seagulls live on the warm beaches of North Carolina and others live in frigid Alaska? The Alaskan one certainly has a better view, but the North Carolina ones have it made on weather!

--- 5 ---
I needed one more quick take (don't ask me why I do them out of order) and asked my husband what I should write about. He responded "How about something about Alaska?" Already done. "Ok, how about how great the Wonder Years is?" Already done (see take 7). I'm not sure if it's scary or sweet that our brains work so similarly, but I guess the good news is, he could fill in on my blog for me if needed!

--- 6 ---
We have a weekend full of fun dates. Tonight we are going to the park for a walk and then out for ice cream as part of my "12 months of dates" coupon book I gave Steven on our anniversary. Tomorrow we are going to Mass, out to dinner to try gluten free pizza, and to an outdoor movie at the art museum (Sky Fall... I will be bringing snacks lol!). Do you have any fun plans?

 --- 7 ---
You know what we can't get enough of on Netflix right now? The Wonder Years! I know I watched it when I was little because the people are familiar but I don't think I really watched it. It is such a great show!!!! That brings me to.... My question of the week! What can you not get enough of in Netflix right now? I'd include cable, too, but we don't have it so it will just make me jealous ;) (kidding, you can totally share!). 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Biting the bullet... and not the bread

Gluten free. We're doing it. SAY IT AIN'T SO!!!! It was all my idea, and now I'm the one panicking. My bread... what will I do without my bread??? We are committed to being gluten free for 4-6 weeks to see if we notice any changes in some symptoms we have. Steven's point directly to gluten sensitivity; mine don't necessarily but could be related. At the very least, we should lose some weight while we starve figure out what we can eat. So that's where you come in. If you eat gluten free or paleo, what are your favorite resources, links, recipes, and meal ideas? 

Here's what we're working with:
The less foods that need to be microwaved, the better.
We need some ideas that are quick to make (ie that would replace sandwiches).

Meals need to remain minimally processed.
I want to avoid GF bread because it's expensive. We'll probably have a loaf around every now and again, but daily sandwiches at lunch are a thing of the past.
98% of things I find on Pinterest involve lunch meat. Really? Lunch meat? The halfway healthy kind is super expensive, and the regular kind is so bad for you that I'd rather just eat gluten and remain minimally processed. I don't want to exchange gluten for nitrates. *climbs off soapbox* 
We need some meat free ideas for Fridays. It seems like we're eating more meat now that we're gluten free.
I burn out on salads easily. Steven will eat them as a side dish but not as a main course.

Here's some things we've come up with so far, but most of these serve as better breakfast or dinner foods, than lunch:
Tomato soup over rice with beef. Yes, I'm just making stuff up with various gluten free ingredients.
Quinoa 'stir fry'
Tuna with hot sauce (ew.... for hubs)
Egg salad not on a sandwich, sometimes with avocado 
Yogurt parfaits (gluten free oats, blueberries)
Shrimp and grits
Rice cakes with peanut butter and sometimes chocolate chips (I swore I wouldn't be that diet person who ate rice cakes, but I actually don't mind them!)
Minimally processed chicken sausage with some kind of starch (rice/quinoa)
Grilled chicken, or really any type of meat
Popcorn... more of a snack, but I've been known to make it a meal!
Eggs and bacon

None of these are particularly fast and easy, though so far they are all pretty delicious. Is making, and worse, cooking lunch the night before unavoidable when eating GF? HELP! :)

And yes, I realize we will most likely be accidentally contaminated through this process but we are going to do the best we can! Steven found an AWESOME site with local restaurants that have GF menus/options, so at least we can quit panicking about date night. We're going to try out a GF pizza place this Friday! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Alaskan Adventures

I'm so overwhelmed at the thoughts of trying to write about our trip to Alaska!!! There is SO MUCH and it would be a book if I wrote it all down, so I'm probably going to end up giving way less detail than I want to. It was a wonderful time, and I'm so appreciative to my parents who made it possible for all 8 of us (5 immediate family and spouses) to go on this trip. We don't all get to be together much, so it was nice having an entire week! The cruise was wonderful and the scenery was more breath taking than I could have imagined! We ported in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria BC with a day trip into Glacier Bay (we didn't get off the ship because the scenery surrounds it!). We saw whales, bald eagles, and a bear. We learned about the way of life in these little Alaskan towns- Skagway only has a population of 800! When one cruise ship docks, their population triples, and there are usually 2-3 cruise ships in port throughout the summer. Can you imagine? Some of the places were pretty touristy, but I loved in Skagway that they kept the original buildings! We were totally spoiled by the all you can eat nature of the cruise. Not only were we sitting down to 4 course meals daily, but we were getting multiple appetizers and desserts. It was so much fun because we never eat like that at home... heck, we don't even get one dessert, to save money. So I felt like royalty between that and room service. I also really liked all the activities they had on board. It sort of reminded me of a modern day family vacation like the one in Dirty Dancing, where families come and can do things together, do things apart, and there are activities already planned for you for all varying interests. We saw lots of comedy shows and live game shows!

View of the Seattle port from the ship

We had a champagne toast to celebrate the beginning of our cruise!

The needle looked spectacular on our way out of the Puget Sound.

I love this picture because it shows how absolutely massive the mountains are when you compare it to the buildings of Juneau. And clearly I couldn't get the whole thing to fit in the picture!

Selfie at Mendenhall Glacier. I'm definitely wearing Steven's thermal under my clothes lol.

Still just love the blue ice!  

This is in Skagway with a view of the buildings, ship docked, and mountains.

Another view of Skagway. I just loved this town!!!

Mom and Dad in Skagway

One of the many views on our train trip in Skagway

Don't look down!

No really, don't.

We <3 trains. This was my favorite excursion!

View of the mountains over the pool deck on the ship. The water was heated and people definitely used the pools and hot tubs! 

I can't get enough of that blue Alaskan water! This was in glacier bay, and the blue water is caused by the silt. 

In Glacier Bay, you stay on the ship and cruise around for a few hours so all sides of the ship can see everything. We camped out with hot bevvies on mom and dad's balcony. A balcony TOTALLY pays off on this trip. Otherwise you had to be in a common area with little to no seating! 

Beautiful reflection in Glacier Bay.

My mom is already talking about doing another Alaskan cruise... and before this, we kept calling it once in a lifetime- haha!

Bald eagle chilling on an iceberg. Get it?... sorry.

Family time with my brother and sister in law in Spinnaker Lounge for a live game show.

The ship rocked A LOT. None of us turned out to get sea sick, which was a huge blessing. Some nights it was scary, and other nights it rocked me right to sleep! 

In Ketchikan we did a duck tour where you first tour on land, and then drive into the water where the duck becomes a boat. Pretty cool!

I still need to google if it was actually the first city. 

He was intrigued and scared at the same time.

Norwegian has a chocolate buffet one night on the cruise... this was like a tiny portion of what they had! 

Peacocks in Victoria, BC. I never would have guessed!

We did a horse drawn trolley tour, which was a great way to see the city. Unfortunately, the port isn't really close to town so when the trolley dropped us back off at the ship, we didn't get to explore anymore. It was such a cute town, though!

Beautiful sunset over Victoria.

My parents' butler (lol!) said most people spend the last night packing since the last port visit starts at 6pm and the cruise is over the next morning at about 8am. Not us! We packed in the afternoon before we got to Victoria, and had a pizza and brownie party that night! It was a great way to wind down our fantastic vacation. 

We also spent some time exploring Seattle before we went home. Steven and I walked 1.5 miles UPHILL to get bloodwork done one of those days. I wanted to die. We quickly figured out the bus system after that, but it was too little, too late for our feet and legs! We hurt for days after that.

 Norwegian does freestyle cruising which means you can get on when you want, eat when you want, get off when you want, etc. So even though we got into port around 8am, we decided to have breakfast and didn't get off the ship til 9:30. 

 Later that morning, we went on a duck tour of Seattle which was SO AMAZING. The Captain was absolutely hysterical and so into his job!

 I can haz for my yard?

 The duck tour captain said he's been at it for 5 years now. Never give up?

 Our captain with his lobster hat. He had a hat and a song to fit just about every fun fact that he told us about Seattle.

 This duck tour boat sat way lower in the water!

 I so want to live in one of these floating houses! Or at least vacation there. They would have grills, patios, the works!

 Look familiar? It's the house from Sleepless in Seattle. Which I now feel I need to watch again.

 This was one of my favorite houses. I would be on the porch allll the time. I wonder if trick or treating is hard?

 Mom with her duck lips!

 Rachel and I ditched our spouses to grab the front seat on the monorail. 

 On the way back, the monorail curved very much like a roller coaster. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not! 

 Seriously. LOVE!

 The gum wall. This is like... a small section of it!

 We made our own contribution. Steven was thoroughly disgusted. 

 I met up with one of my favorite Cathsorority ladies, Kristan! She actually lives in Texas but was in Seattle for work. Perfect timing or what???

 This was on the bloodwork day. The lab tech guy told us there was this AWESOME burger place we had to go to that was right around the corner. ANOTHER mile and a half later, we got there. And there was no seating. Not no seating available... seating didn't exist. I thought I was going to cry! Luckily my ever awesome hubs whipped out his phone and found a park that was a 5 minute walk away. We relaxed in the shade and talked about how amazing the Seattle weather was for our days of intense walking. It could have rained on us, so I'll count our blessings. Oh, also? We flew home at 10pm that night. So we wore the same clothes from 9am that morning until we got home at like 11am the next day. Gross.

 That afternoon, we took the Bainbridge Ferry with my parents. We snacked on popcorn and cookies (they even sell beer and full meals!) for the 30 minute ride. We got off, got in line, and got back on. It was a great way to relax in the A/C and see some good views!

We ended our trip with dinner and dessert before heading to the airport. Here's the sweet couple, married 35 years this past May, who made it all possible! My mom reads this blog so, if you made it this far, you can definitely tell her happy anniversary in the comments :).