Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lavender favors

One of my very close friends from high school is getting married to a great guy this month. She was the maid of honor in my wedding, and now I am a bridesmaid in her wedding. I am so thrilled for her. She is a great girl and has had her share of bad guys. I'm so glad she found a keeper.

The other bridesmaids and I planned Becky's shower and split up the duties. I opted to make the favors and get the prizes. Lavender is theme color for the wedding, so I made everything in shades of lilac and lavender.

For the little girls at the shower, I made flower barrettes. Using a hot glue gun, I attached grosgrain ribbon to metal barrettes. When that dried, I glued on little fabric flowers.

I clipped them to a piece of the same ribbon I used in the barrettes and then tied on a tag I made.

For the ladies in attendance, I made lavender sachets. I ordered a bulk bag of lavender, a bottle of lavender oil, and lavender organza pouches. They were quick and easy to put together: a couple spoonfuls of lavender, a few drops of lavender oil, and tie on the tags. They were pretty and smelled great.

I love a good quote and spend hours each year picking the perfect one to put on my Christmas letter. This is one from the poet William Blake I chose for Becky's shower favors:

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Well hello there

I believe a month just passed me by there. It's been a blur.

This semester I have two very challenging courses that force me to use math-related brain cells that have been dormant for 15 years. (Did I ever really know what natural logarithm was?)

Also, I finally asked for a job change at work. Constantly being in front of a classroom for eight hours a day was wearing me down. I now am in a new role of writing training materials for the physicians and nurses that use our software. It is still demanding work, but the focus of it is a much better fit for me right now.

My workouts have been falling by the wayside lately. I dutifully set my alarm every morning and then hit snooze ten times until I am actually running late. I always feel like crap when I am not working out regularly. I felt like  I needed a goal to work toward. I needed a reason not to hit snooze again.

So I signed up for a marathon. I have fun four before, but it has been several years, and I honestly thought my achy, child-bearing hips couldn't take it again. I ran a tentative five miles, then eight, then ten with no problems. This past weekend I was all the way up to 14, more than half way there! My feet are riddled with blisters, but otherwise, I am feeling good. My sister and I are running the marathon together, and we're going to make it a long, family weekend event. We've run several marathons separately but this will be our first together. (And she's had five kids, so I can't complain much.)

I started running when I was 13, and it has always been a part of my life. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon and feeling the weight of the medal around my neck was one of the proudest, most exhilarating moments of my life. Running makes me feel athletic and powerful. When I was struggling with my hip and lower back problems, I felt a lot of sadness that I would have to give up running. I certainly had to cut back for awhile. I am a lot creakier than I when I was 22 and hadn't given birth to three children, but I still feel athletic and powerful when I lace up my running shoes. And I can't wait to cross that finish line again.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back from Brazil

My tan is slowly fading from my days on Ipanema Beach. Back in Wisconsin, the temperatures are below freezing and the snow is piled up wherever you look. My tank tops and shorts, pulled out for a few brief days in the sun are packed away in the dark regions of my closet. It's a sad time.

The highlight of my MBA program is an international trip to an emerging market. Ours was to Brazil in January, when Wisconsin is locked in the depths of winter and Brazil is in the midst of sunny summer.

It turns out Brazil isn't so easy to get to. We flew all night to get to Rio de Janeiro. We stayed off Ipanema Beach and one day I ran along the beach from Ipanema to Copacabana. We took a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain and then visited the Christ the Redeemer statue. Apparently we chose to do this on the same day as everyone else in South America.

 We visited the Sambadrome where Carnaval takes place, and I felt like I fit right in.

After the fun in Rio, it was on to business in Sao Paulo, and the real point of our trip. We visited several businesses and heard speakers from others. 

This was a stop at Natura, a natural cosmetics company that sells its products in a direct-sale model, similar to Mary Kay. The campus was beautiful.

Another day I went on a city tour with a small group. Sao Paulo is a massive city with the world's highest number of buildings over 25 stories. The skyline went on as far as the eye could see.


In contrast to the towering buildings and pockets of great wealth were the ubiquitous slums called favelas. These were clinging to the hillsides in Rio and tucked amongst the urban areas in Sao Paulo. They were made up of small, bright-colored blocks haphazardly stacked on top of one another. Satellite dishes and clotheslines dotted the rooftops. We made one interesting but awkward stop to a favela in Sao Paulo.

Brazil is not the most vegetarian-friendly country in the world. Its traditional barbecue restaurants feature waiters offering various animal parts on skewers. They will slice off a chunk for you if you give the OK. Chicken hearts were one interesting option. 

The soccer season is over in Brazil, but we did get the chance to go to a soccer scrimmage. There weren't many people there, as apparently the game didn't count and it was pouring rain, but the fans who did attend were amazing. I've never seen anything like it. They stood the entire game and constantly cheered and unfurled banners and beat drums.

Toward the end of the trip, we visited the Port of Santos, the largest port in Latin America. We took a boat tour of the huge shipping operations. After a late night previously, I woke up just ten minutes before the bus had to leave. That might sound terrible, but four people missed the bus entirely and had to make the two-hour trip by cab, so I didn't feel so bad.

Santos was also something of a Mecca for me, as it featured the Coffee Museum. This building used to be like the stock market for coffee where they graded the coffee and bought and sold it. The cappuccino I had there was heavenly.

We flew all night again to get back to Miami, then Chicago, and then Madison. It was a quick turnaround, back to work on Monday and a new semester of classes Monday night. It was a ten-day trip, so I was ready to come home and really missed my family. I've never been away that long!

I still feel a bit discombobulated and exhausted. It will be a long slog to the end of the MBA program now that the midpoint highlight is behind me. Brazil was a marvelous place though, and I am so glad I had the chance to visit. I wish I would have had a chance to explore the Amazon areas of the country, but there's always next time.


Monday, January 9, 2012

December Favorites

1. Words with Friends

My obsession with this game started after Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane for it. I figured it must be good if he was that  into it. And I now think I could be driven to disrupt a flight if it interfered with my game. I love it. I often have several games going at once and spend long stretches plotting the highest scoring move.

2. Phomollient

Phomollient from Aveda is a lightweight, clean-feeling, sweet-smelling styling aid. My hairdresser turned me on to it and now I use it every day before the shortest blowdry possible.


I've wanted a BOSU for awhile now, and my in-laws got us one for Christmas. I've used this in several fitness classes and think it is so versatile. BOSU stands for "Both Sides Up." You can stand on the dome side or hop up and down or do push-ups on the flat side. It is great for cardio and toning. The kids also like springing off of it in death-defying feats.

This is the best thing  if you have children. My in-laws again came through and gave us this book and little elf early in December. The elf lurks in the house in the weeks leading up to Christmas. At night he goes back to Santa and reports who was naughty or nice that day. (As you can imagine, we constantly reminded the boys that Elfie was watching. We milked every minute of it!) In the morning, Elfie is in a different location, and the kids have to find him. Twice, Elfie forgot to move. Once he was just being tricky and moved later on during the day. Another day that he forgot to move, and then remembered at the very last second as Q was descending the stairs, he ended up flying through the air and landing flat on the counter in front of the microwave. "Look Mom!" Q exclaimed. "Elfie is resting!" Elfie is now back with Santa, but hopefully he is more on the ball when he returns for next Christmas.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good kids

I'd love for my kids to grow up to be rich, successful doctors. I'd be thrilled if they made it into the best colleges and earned big paychecks and were the smartest people around. But that's probably not going to happen (at least not entirely), and I don't have much control over it either. But one thing I do have at least a say in is how they learn to treat other people.

Though I grew up in a very homogeneous town, I grew up to be open-minded and accepting. My parents did it subtly, but I always understood that everyone deserved to be treated with equal respect regardless of any perceived differences.

I am determined that my children will grow up with the same guidance. I want my boys to be respectful of women and Lena to believe she can be anything she wants to be. I also want them to understand that they have a lot of advantages and not everyone has all the things they have. I want them to see giving generously as just a part of life. I want them to feel a passion for social justice and an obligation to pull up others who have fallen down.

This is a tall order of course considering they are just one, three, and five, but it's never too early right? And I feel that I also need to make helping people around me a structured part of life. Too often you give of yourself only when it is convenient. So T and I have decided to volunteer or donate or do something every month to remind us that we are part of a larger community, and we are all in this together.

We started in September. That first month, we printed out a list from the Humane Society, went shopping at the pet supply store, and dropped off our donations. We also took a little tour and resisted bringing home any new pets.

In October, I had an already-scheduled charity event for a women's fund, so I wrote an extra check. In November, we signed up to be bell ringers.

We really guilted some people into giving with this line-up. We tried to explain exactly what we were doing and why. I think Q started to get it, though R was more interested in helping to shove money into the kettle, and Lena just liked shaking the bell.

In December, T took the boys to Toy R Us to pick out gifts for Toys for Tots. That was a big test of course, as the boys get manic when they enter a toy store. They did a good job selecting their toys and did  eventually hand them over.

Especially this time of year when the kids become greedy little devils demanding everything they see advertised in colorful newspaper inserts or on television commercials, I want to make sure they are learning what we really value. If they grow up to be caring, generous adults, I will know I was a good mother.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

November Favorites

1. Instagram

I was due for a phone upgrade in November and got my hands on then new iPhone 4S. Among the fun little treats with which I have been entertaining myself: Instagram. This app lets you take pictures and then easily apply filters to make yourself look like a master photographer. Witness the documentation of my Christmas card construction:

Watch out. It's addicting!

2. Dermalogica products

I picked up som Dermalogica products when I got a facial last month and have fallen in love. I got this multi-active toner and also a hydration serum and eye cream. I especially like the serum, because your skin just drinks it in and is moisturized without being greasy.

3. Klutz.com 

For Christmas and birthday this fall, I am going for online shopping and homemade gifts. Klutz.com has the best, most clever gifts for kids. I have snapped up a couple things for my nephews. Uncommongoods.com also is a great option for unique, useful gifts.

4. PIE!

I stopped eating meat in 2004 (and started eating fish again in 2009), so Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey for me...it's all about the PIE. I think I could subsist on pie alone. Cherry pie, pecan pie, apple pie, peach pie, and pumpkin pie. The last few years I have made two pumpkin pies (from scratch of course. That's the only way to do it.) and eaten probably 1.5 pies by myself. This year my pesky children were into pie as well (perhaps there is a pie-loving gene?), and I didn't get my fair share. Even Lena was going to town on the pie. I managed to devour about eight pieces but felt still deprived. Next year I might have to increase my pie production. And I will state for the record that I firmly believe pumpkin pie makes a perfectly acceptable breakfast. It has vitamin A in it doesn't it?


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Relax already

I'm not very good at letting go. I tend to live up in my head, churning through thoughts, planning ahead, looking back, but rarely thinking about the exact moment I am in. I think how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, years until....something. I can eat a bag of chips and not realize it or take my vitamins and then forget if I just actually took them. It's not healthy.

I once read that rumination like this can keep you from being happy in your life. So I've been trying not to do it. Easier said than done if your brain has been operating in the same way since birth. Yoga is a great way to develop a more relaxed mindset. I didn't take easily to yoga when I first tried it. I would be thinking, When is this horrible plank going to be over? What am I going to do after class? Hasn't it been an hour yet? I still sometimes count down the seconds of particularly grueling poses, but I have gotten better at trying to climb down out of my head and actually be aware of my body.

My life is full right now. There is just no way around that. There is always something I need to accomplish or remember from the snack Q needs for school, to my next quiz in class, or a work meeting. If I don't rein it in, my mind just runs wild hopscotching from task to task and worry to worry. Lately I have consciously been trying to reel myself back and focus on one thing at a time. Work when I am at the office, family when the kids are awake, classwork after they go to bed. It doesn't always work but being conscious of it can't hurt.

I found myself yesterday with a vacation day to burn and a spa gift card I hadn't spent. I dedicated the day to a little relaxation and went to yoga, a facial, and lunch with T. It was lovely. Of course, I was stressed when I was running late to the facial and when I couldn't remember where I parked the car, but then I wouldn't be me if there wasn't a little anxiety in the mix.

I envy the people who can blissfully sink into relaxation. Even during a massage my mind is whirling, How many minutes do I have left? Why does my left calf hurt? Does she think my arms are fat?

I just can't turn it off. But at least I am developing the ability to dim it a little.