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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Celebrating Five Years Of...

Five years can go by in a blink of an eye, and yet can be filled with many life changes. Moving to a new home, changing jobs, weddings, graduations, making incredible new friends, having great times with old friends, and even dealing with the deaths of those we love. Reflecting on the past five years of my life I find moments of incredible highs, and devastating lows, but through it all is the one constant I know is always there...my husband.
February 1st is our fifth wedding anniversary. It's interesting the things one remembers about their wedding day. Having a slumber party with my girls the night before, dealing with the aftermath of a major snow storm, waiting in the cry room alone praying Hail Mary's to help calm my nerves, and dancing all night long!

All my memories of our wedding day are good. I mostly owe this to the most amazing Maid of Honor a Bride could have! She made sure that the day went smoothly, and if there were any last minute bumps in the road, I never heard about them. She dealt with the stress of the day so I could truly enjoy my wedding.

Each anniversary we try to get each other the traditional/modern gifts for each year. This is both challenging and fun! The 1st year anniversary gift is paper. Ken made me a stock certificate stating that I own 100% of the stock of Ken Parsell. This has worked in my favor many times over the past five years! The statement "You don't own me" is quickly followed by a quick point toward the stock certificate and a smirking declaration "Oh yes I do!"
The 3rd year anniversary gift is leather. I was extremely blessed to find the perfect gift for my husband... a first edition of Pope John XXIII's encyclical Mater et Magistra in a leather bound book complete with casing.
The 5th year anniversary gift is wood. We both had to be creative on this one, and I can't wait to see what my wonderful husband has come up with!
Marriage comes with it's challenges, and blessings. I am truly thankful that I get to spend my days married to my best friend and love of my life. Many people have asked us over the past 5 years if the honeymoon is over yet, and both of us always respond "Absolutely Not!"

What is your best memory from your own wedding? Do you buy traditional gifts for your anniversary too? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Flu Season 101

It all starts with some small sign: a slight itch at the back of your throat, a sneeze, or even just a headache.  The next thing you know you are stuck in bed with a box of tissue, bottles and boxes of medicine, a two-liter of Vernors, feeling completely miserable, and wondering how this happened to you!

This past Sunday while at Mass, the woman sitting in front of my husband politely declined to shake anyone’s hand during the sign of peace stating that she was sick with the flu. A few minutes later that exact same woman got up and began serving Holy Communion! Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the healing power of God, but I also think God gave us common sense for a reason.

I have heard many mothers complain about random people trying to touch their small children, or someone being served at a restaurant by a waiter with a visible red nose, or just standing behind someone in line who doesn't cover their mouth when they cough. I understand that some situations are unpreventable, but the majority definitely is. It would be ideal if every sick person could stay home until they are well again, but unfortunately this is not always possible. Therefore, there are a few basic etiquette rules that should be followed:

 It is important to have respect for one another’s personal space. Refraining from touching other people or their possessions while you are ill will help prevent the spread of germs.

 Always ask a parent’s permission before touching their child… this should be a rule whether you are sick or not. It is also the parent’s right to say “No” to your request. It is their child after all. (*Side note: This rule also applies to touching a pregnant woman’s belly. More on this some other time.)

Wash your hands. Again, this should be a rule whether you are sick or not, but some people need reminding. If washing your hands isn't an immediate option, keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you is always a good idea.
Cover your mouth, preferably with a tissue or handkerchief,   when you, and/or your child, cough, sneeze, or even yawn. Then go wash your hands. This should be common knowledge, but I’m amazed at how often this rule is not practiced.

At the end of the day, just having basic respect for other people and your contact with them will have a huge impact on helping to prevent spreading the flu to both friends and strangers. People will appreciate your decline for personal contact, and respect you for thinking of their health first.

What is your biggest pet peeve during the Flu season?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Art Of Giving Gifts

It's hard to think of springtime when we are stuck in the bitter cold of January. However, spring is coming and with it comes a whole new gift giving season. The spring and summer months are filled with bridal showers, graduation parties, and weddings, and each event requires the guest to bring a gift. The question is: do you buy a gift off the gift registry or be creative and buy something of your own choosing?
Gift registries make buying gifts relatively easy and stress free. The gift recipient has conveniently let guests know what they need, what style they prefer, and what their favorite colors are. For those who find the task of buying gifts daunting, a gift registry is a welcomed relief. However, there are those who think that registering for gifts is crude, and a selfish way of picking out one's own gifts. These people usually have the mind set that they know what the recipient really needs and proceed to give what they think is a better gift. If you fall into the latter category let me warn you now, more than likely you do not know better, and your "off registry" gift is not appreciated, and quickly gets added to the bin for re-gifting gifts.

This is not to say that you can never buy a gift that is not on the gift registry. If you know the recipient well, and have a gift in mind that you know they will love and appreciate then you should definitely buy it. At my bridal shower, one of my aunts filled a laundry hamper with tons of kitchen gadgets, tools, and utensils I didn't even think to register for, but she knew I would definitely need. That was one gift (or a dozen gifts put in one hamper) that I truly appreciated, and continue to appreciate to this day. However, just because you happen to love a specific kitchen appliance does not mean that someone else will love it, or even want it to begin with. More importantly, your style and preferences for your home are most likely not the same as the person you are buying a gift for.

If there is a gift that you truly feel the recipient should have I would suggest you give it as bonus gift along with a gift you purchased off the registry. Consequently, you should not be offended if your gift is returned, re-gifted, or never used.

What is the best or worst gift you have ever received? Do you prefer to buy gifts from a gift registry or pick out your own gift?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Man's Junk Is Another Man's Treasure

We have all gotten gifts that we absolutely love. Opening a gift and being delightfully surprised at how well thought out and perfect it is for you is always a wonderful thing. Of coarse there are those times when you open a gift, plaster on a fake smile, and say "Thank You!" All the while your mind is reeling with idea's of how to get it out of your presence as quickly as possible. So, what do you do with the unwanted gifts?
It would be so nice if every gift came with a gift receipt so they could be easily returned, but the reality is most do not. The important thing to remember is, just because a gift may not suit your particular style and taste, does not mean it wouldn't be absolutely perfect for someone else. Of coarse it would be great if I opened a gift I didn't like, and thought "I know the perfect person for this gift!" but that rarely happens.  Because there usually isn't an immediate designee for the gifts I intend to regift, I have a large bin I keep them in until a time arises. Furthermore, over the years my bin of gifts has seen multiple purposes. I have had gifts that have made excellent Bridal Shower prizes, gifts that were great for a game of White Elephant, and sometimes a gift becomes absolutely perfect for a holiday crafting/decor purpose years later!

There are many reasons people choose to regift a gift. Maybe they simply couldn't afford a new gift at the time. Maybe it is an extremely nice gift that they know they will never use, but want to make sure it is enjoyed by someone else instead of sitting in a cupboard or closet for decades collecting dust. Perhaps they just didn't have time to find a new gift, or maybe they are just extremely frugal (to put it nicely). Regardless of the reason there are some rules that apply to regifting. First, you need to answer the question, "Will the recipient like the gift?" If the answer is "maybe" or "I don't know" and you still intend to give it to them, then you mustn't be upset if  that person regifts your gift as well. Next, your regift must also be in perfect, or nearly perfect condition! Giving a used heirloom vase is a lot different than cleaning up a used toaster and wrapping it up. Finally, it would also be wise to regift to someone who is outside the circle of family and friends of the person who originally gave you the gift first. Imagine the insult your mother would feel when she see's the sweater she bought you on your sister's best friend!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with regifting gifts as long as it's done with courtesy and tact. Why should a perfectly good gift, that just isn't perfect for you, go to waste. As the saying goes: "One man's junk is another man's treasure."

What is the worst gift you have ever given or gotten? Do you re-gift your gifts?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Craft Filled Christmas

This past fall I discovered the wonderful world of Pinterest! It's so easy to get trapped for hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon finding dozens of beautiful outfits, fabulous recipes, fitness inspiration, home and holiday decoration idea's, and lots and lots of craft projects.

I love craft projects. Finding amazing things that I can make for holiday gifts thrills me! I decided to narrow it down to two projects to give as Christmas gifts. Tile coasters, and homemade vanilla extract. Both looked like pretty simple projects, and both were budget friendly projects. After a little research, my husband and I found that there are a million different types of vanilla beans to choose from. We chose to go with a high quality Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean, picked cute little 4 ounce bottles with cork tops, and voila!
The tile coasters started out as a very fun project. Choosing lovely pictures and patterns to make various sets of four was the best part for me. They were so beautiful I wanted to keep them all! I had made sets of four coasters for 22 people, and had them all done by Thanksgiving. After allowing them to dry in the dining room for 4 to 5 days, I stacked them up and stored them in my bedroom closet until it was time to wrap them. This is where it all fell apart!
Upon bringing all my lovely coasters out to be wrapped I found that they were all stuck together! I was completely devastated! How could this happen?! I followed the directions to a T! Frantically, I began researching if anyone else had encountered this issue. I found a few comments on craft blogs that vaguely stated this had happened to them too, but no matter how much I searched I could find no answer to why this happened, and I had to start over from scratch. 

After some text venting to a crafty friend of mine, she suggested that I switch to cork backing instead of the felt I used on the first round, and try baking them to help cure the decoupage. I also decided to try a different top coat sealer I found was suggested on several craft websites...high gloss, pour on glaze. Let me spare you the scary details and just say that out of the 6 sets I used the high gloss glaze on, only 2 sets survived...barely. My husband came home from work that evening to find his wife sitting on the couch with a cocktail glass in hand and a bottle of Captain Morgan's sitting on the table in front of her...I didn't drink the whole bottle, just a drink... or two! The kitchen was a wreck and I seriously thought I was going to wake up the next morning with my hands glued together. I am not cut out for work that involves industrial strength chemicals! 

Luckily my husband came to my rescue and found a spray on glaze that seemed to be more durable than the original acrylic spray on glaze I used with the first batch. With a trip in the oven for a quick bake, and a 5 day stretch spread out across my living room and dining room under a fan, they were ready to be wrapped, and put under the tree with only a few days to spare before Christmas.
Next year I think I will stick with a project that is MUCH simpler!

Have you ever had a craft project go wrong?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Can I Ask You A Personal Question?

Occasionally you may sit down and have a conversation with someone and have that awkward moment when a personal question gets asked. However, it seems to me that this is becoming more and more the norm.
Once upon a time it was taboo to ask a woman her age. Now women get asked how old they are, how much money they make, what they paid for their car and home, when they are planning to have children, or why they don’t have any. For some people, answering these types of questions is part of their daily life as they post every intimate detail about themselves on Twitter and Facebook. This, however, is not the majority. The majority of women (and men too) prefer that their personal life be kept personal.

I have seen many women frustrated with the constant berating of personal questions, particularly about their family life choices. “When are you going to get pregnant?” “Why aren't you breastfeeding?” “How much longer are you going to breastfeed?”  “Don’t you think you have enough children?” “Why don’t you have any children?” and on, and on the questions go. Here’s my question: Why do people think these very personal matters are open for public scrutiny? What if a mother is already overwhelmed with the child/children she has, and knows it’s in the best interest for her family as a whole to wait to have more, or not have any more? What if a new mother tried to breastfeed her baby, but for numerous reasons she wasn't able to? Asking her about it would only upset her more. What if a couple was dealing with infertility, or just isn't emotionally, or financially ready? You may have your own opinion of how someone should approach each of these issues, but these are very sensitive topics to assume you have the right to know the answers!

I’m not saying that you can never ask anyone a personal question. If you are close, and you know they are open to discussing personal matters then there is nothing wrong with it. However, if you happen to see a friend or family member at a party, it is probably not appropriate to ask personal questions. By simply asking the question “How are you?” you will allow that person the opportunity to divulge personal information, or keep the conversation light.  Never push a conversation in a direction the other person is trying to avoid. If they are actively avoiding answering a question, then it’s none of your business, and they do not want to talk about it. Furthermore, just because you are related to someone it does not give you the right to ask blunt personal questions, or expect answers.

A good rule of thumb to follow is this: If someone wants you to know something, they will tell you. Ask them how they are doing and let the conversation flow naturally. Most people will find that they are more willing to confide in someone they trust, who is not brash or nosy, and does not pry for personal information.

What is your biggest pet peeve about personal questions?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's in the Windy City!

Most people are shocked when I tell them I have never been to Chicago…especially when I have lived 4 hours away my entire life! I can now say, I will never get that shocked and disappointed look again, because I got to spend my New Year’s in the Windy City!
I must say, it is a lot easier to visit a big city when you are also visiting good friends who can show you the sights, and make the trip much more fun and enjoyable. It also made the trip a bit more affordable when our friend’s invited us to park our car on the free street parking in front of their apartment building in the charming Rogers Park. A 3-day CTA pass made travelling around the city easy, and sometimes entertaining. We found a great deal on our hotel in the Loop, and we were very pleased with the hospitality, friendliness, and cleanliness. In fact, Ken and I were both pleasantly surprised by the general friendliness of the city as a whole!

Our first evening we had dinner at Dick’s Last Resort. That was truly a unique experience! I highly recommend going at least once in your lifetime, but find it would be amazing for large celebrations such as birthday’s, bachelor/bachelorette dinner parties, etc.
After dinner the men went back to the apartment with the baby, and us ladies were able to shop the Magnificent Mile, all lit up for the holidays, at our leisure. We ended the evening with a stop at a Cupcake ATM! It was one of the best cupcakes I have ever eaten!
New Year’s Eve was spent exploring the Field Museum.
Six hours, and two very sore feet later we left the museum, and headed back uptown to the Cheesecake Factory. The restaurant was crowded, and we waited an hour to get a table, but the food was well worth the wait and the service was outstanding! We took our cheesecake desserts to go (I got the pineapple upside down cheesecake!), and headed back to our hosts apartment for an evening of cocktails, and Euchre. It was great day, and an amazingly fun evening. I can’t think of a better way to end one year and start a new one than with the sound of laughter with great friends!

Ken and I got on the L to head back to our hotel at about 1:30 am. To our delight the train was mostly empty, and a nice warm reprieve from the bitterly cold wind outside. However, slowly the trains started to fill up and before we knew it there were people jammed packed on to the train! People (mostly 18-20 year olds!) were sitting on top of one another, standing on the back of the chairs and on the dividers…smoking, passing bottles and flasks of beer and liquor, singing drunkenly, yelling, and then….someone puked! Our nice serene train ride back to the hotel had quickly turned into a frat house party nightmare! Each time the train stopped at a platform packed with wall to wall people, our train would get a little crazier! When our stop FINALLY arrived I allowed Ken to aggressively plow his way through the aisle to get me off that insane train! It was very stressful at the time, but it makes quite an amusing story to tell. Oh the adventures of travel! What was even more insane was all the women walking the street of Chicago in sub-zero temps (with the wind chill) with no coats, no stocking, and wearing short, strapless cocktail dresses! Here I was trying to walk the 3 blocks to my hotel wearing jeans, thick socks, a full length wool coat and a scarf wrapped around my head and still trying to manage not to get frost bite or hypothermia, and hundreds of women are walking around in little more than what they would wear to the beach!

Overall, I would describe our trip as fun, frigidly cold, entertaining, exhausting, educational, and nothing short of an amazing time! Happy New Year!!!

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago? What is the best way you like to spend New Year's Eve?