Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great Blogging Balancing Act

I was not an internet presence back when the good old days of blogging first began (Although I did have a pretty baller MySpace page), but I imagine them through very rose-colored glasses, using the movie Julie and Julia as my only real frame of reference.  That being said, I still feel pretty confident saying that gone are the blog days where you just threw out your words into a predetermined template and hit publish.  This is no longer an acceptable form of blogging.  Now you need to know things about coding and html, you need to know about graphics and how to design.  Words are no longer enough.  You need GIF’s and vlog’s (what the?) and bonus points are given for pictures of your cat doing adorable things.  I don’t own a cat.  And despite my daily whining on the subject, Ben still won’t let me have a dog.
Surprisingly enough, how I also look at work the majority of the time.
I started this blog to improve and practice my writing, with the goal of one day maybe entering the forces of freelance writers.  I have even picked out the perfect post I was going to rewrite and reedit and turn into my grand paid-writer debut.  But do you know how often I have looked at it to do the rewrites and the reedits?  Yeah, that would be one big old fat goose egg.  I did print it out many moons ago, but I don’t even know where that print out ended up.  And I’ve been too lazy to print it out again.

Do you know what I have been doing instead?  Instead of writing, I am worrying about taking good thematic pictures or fighting with Photoshop Touch trying to make it do what I want to said picture.  I’m stressing out over clever things to write and pretty blog designs and just in general wondering how do I get those extra few pages visit to my page?  I’m pretty sure this is the curse of every blogger: finding that balance between actually enjoying the writing aspect while all the while keeping up your showiness for the Jones's.  And unfortunately, most of the time the scales are tipping towards appearances and showmanship, not solid content.

I don't really have an answer for this, I just wanted to take the time to write it out.  Sometimes the act of putting the words down on paper (or, you know, blogger) helps to sort out the thoughts a little better, for me at least.  And isn't acknowledgement of the issue the first step in everything?

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Ivory Room

Hypothesis: Piano Bars are the great unifier of the young, bar-going population.

Background: Perhaps this was just a drunken thought that I had at 1:44 am last Saturday (Sunday I guess technically), but sober me believes that I may be on to something here.

2014-06-23 15.52.01
Don't hate too much on my picture.  According to my phone, it was taken at 1:44 AM

The typical North American Piano Bar is a situation in which you can get a group of twenty and thirty-something year olds (and a few rocking elders thrown in) in the same jam-packed room to sing together in beautiful/inebriated harmony to songs from all walks of life.  They are all pretty similar, whether the bar originate in Arizona, Florida or Wisconsin, and usually feature two pianos facing one another, each manned by an energetic piano maestro who act as both entertainment and MCs for the night.  There may be a drum set or other instruments strewn about, but the men and women who command the pianos are the true stars.  The drunk masses are crowded in close and pay cold hard cash to get their song request played, higher bills obviously guaranteeing a spot on the line up.

Evidence:  Gathered in the wee morning hours of Sunday, June 22.

Although ages could only really be estimated (piano bars, great melting pots that they are, are loud and do not encourage any actual conversation), in general the audience seemed to be compromised of the following:

  • Bridal parties, bachelor(ette) parties, birthday parties
  • Bro's with rally caps and shirts unbuttoned to 2 inches above the belly button
  • Druuunnnkkk chicks
  • Awkward couples on first dates
  • College youth
  • College alumni hoping to relive their glory day
  • Yuppies who think they are truly baller as they sing all the lyrics to "Get Low"
  • One random single guy

On the flip side of our hypothesis, here is a representative sample of the songs that will be played on any given night at any given piano bar:

  • Timber
  • A Melody of songs from the hit Disney movie Frozen
  • Take Me Home, Country Roads
  • Cecilia
  • Big Butts
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love
  • The Notre Dame Fight Song (Don't pretend to be surprised)
  • Wagon Wheel
  • A rather hilarious and ridiculous inapprorpriate rendition of Part of Your World.  (Needless to say, I can't look at the Little Mermaid the same way ever again).

Conclusion: If you think your night is over, but you rather it not be, just head to the nearest Piano Bar.  Chances are there it will be overcrowded and getting a drink at the bar will be difficult, finding a seat will be even harder, and the pianos will undoubtedly end the night with Semisonic's Closing Time.  You won't want to, but before you know it you'll be enjoying yourself, raising your glass and will join in with everyone else, belting out tonelessly "I've got friends in low places, where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases by blues away... And I'll be ok..."


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dream Apartment

One particularly rough days at work, or more accurately days that I just really, really don't want to be there, I spend a small chunk of time day dreaming about our next apartment.  The spaciousness of the kitchen, the ideal proximity to actual things to do and places to go, the ability to maybe finally own a grill.  I daydream and then I do a quick Google search and try to find Ben and I the perfect apartment.

And yesterday I totally found it.
It's an exercise that allows me to escape for a few minutes and encourages my inner nester/interior designer to come out and play for a little while.  And it makes me happy, searching the web for the best floor plans and the best locations, then letting my imagination run wild at the whole world of possibilities out there.

It always ends in an email to Ben to the extent of "I want to live here!" followed by a link.   Yesterday, however, just may be the first time that the link actually lead him to what I truly believe is our perfect future home.  A wonderful 1 bedroom apartment, totally within our price range (actually, on the low side even...) in Oak Park.  I am in love.

It is perfect:
  • Less than a mile (aka walking distance) from BOTH Trader Joe's and Whole Foods AND the public library.
  • A similar jaunt will land you at a station for the Green Line, 12 stops to the city
  • Pet Friendly
  • At least 4 parks in a 1 mile radius (important for the aforementioned puppy)
  • An actual, real sized kitchen with counter space and cabinet space - not the normal city-tiny things they normally try to pass off as kitchens
  • And, yes, ok, shared laundry facilities, but I promised Ben I wouldn't complain too much about that
Our Future Home
So, needless to say, I pestered Ben until he agreed that we could go look at it.  There's not too much harm in that... It does come available on August 1, so who knows?  This might actually work out.  And until then, I will be daydreaming about how we will arrange the furniture and where we keep the dog bed and the color of the accent wall for the kitchen.  Home sweet home...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Things My Father Taught Me

Tomorrow is Father's Day.  The day where we all leave Dad alone to watch TV on the couch to his heart's content while we make him steak and German chocolate cake for dinner.  It's also the day to take a minute to look at your Dad and realize how great life has been because of the man.  I've been taking this last week to do just that.  While I am thankful for a great number of things my father has done for me over the years, what I may just be most thankful for is the great number of things that my father has taught me.  I am a strong, loud, loving and (I believe) well-balanced young woman and I know that each step I have taken to get here was influence by at least one of the many lessons of my father.  And for that, I will always be thankful. 

family 9

Things My Father Taught Me:

How to drive.  And equally as important, how to verbally vent your frustration at other drivers while driving.

Every 70's song worth knowing, including Dead Skunk and the Jesus Christ, Superstar soundtrack.

The story behind the band name "Three Dog Night".

How to hit a ball and not to just sit in the outfield with my glove on my head.

How to dance.

View More:

How to write well.  College applications, book reports, blog posts.

Similarly, your first draft is never your final draft.  Spend the time to make it better.

Your family (sisters especially) might piss you off and purposeful push all your buttons until you are screaming mad, but they are your family and the best thing that will ever happen to you. 

And that one day my sister and I will be good friends, that I need just give it time (Dad - you were right!).

That persistence pays off.  Being borderline annoying can bring about happy results, it shows your commitment.

All the good Spanish swear words.  The English ones too for that matter, although they are not as fun.

There is no shame in drinking Schnapps, rootbeer, cinnamon or otherwise.

When giving a speech, you can just "wing it" and still have great results.

Cereal can be dessert.

That the boy that I marry had best ask him before he asks me (he did, and Dad said yes!)

That reading is a great habit.  You should do it often.

How to have thick skin and not let the teasing and the chiding get to you.

How to take score at a baseball game.

That women's basketball is just as good as men's basketball, except the women play with more passion and better teamwork.

To always play to win. 

family 4

Right, wrong, crazy or mean, your coach/teacher/boss is your coach/teacher/boss and deserve both your respect and your compliance.

Haste makes waste (this one took a few times to sink in though, I admit).

How to make Pork Chop Supreme.

No one will ever love me as fiercely as my mother (although Dad is a close second).

Happy Father's Day Daddy.  I love you always. 
Love, your favorite daughter

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Serious Case of Familysickness

Getting back into work after vacation is always difficult.  The little things that people did that annoyed you to no end but that somehow you got used to, are (after 5 blissful days apart) insanely annoying again.  Your goal to have as few things as possible in your inbox goes from 5 emails you need to deal with to 127.  You fall behind on the latest office gossip and/or scandal and spend the time you should be using to get caught up on emails to get caught up on office politics instead.  And to top it all off, you spend a good chunk of the day missing your family...

No?  That one is just me?

Vacations home, or in this case, to a beach house in California, often leave me feeling morose.  Being older and hypothetically more mature has awaken in me the realization that my family is actually pretty cool.  Normally, the amount of missing them is low, albeit constant.  After seeing them all together and getting to spend time with them, it grows to an unquenchable level of complete and utter Familysickness.

family sick

Symptoms include an increased amount of texts/phone calls/emails being sent to various family members, increased hours on Facebook waiting for one's sister to load vacation photos and a exponential uptake in the number of times a day one says "When we move back to Arizona..." vs "If we move back to Arizona".  People, we are dealing with a real epidemic here and, unfortunately, one that scientist have yet to find a cure for (except for the aforementioned moving back to Arizona).  Over time, the sadness will recede back to the dull ache for a sisterly hug or a meal made by mom, but it never goes away.  This is my cross to bear...

I think it goes without saying at this point that the family vacation was great.  There were nights filled with good food, games and shots of Fireball.  We took long walks along the ocean and went crab hunting with my nephew.  We toured Firestone Walker brewery, where I found an IPA that I actually enjoyed drinking (plus their UDBA - unfiltered double barrel aged - which was fantastic).

At the brewery, after a few pints
Our day on the beach was cloudy and cold, but we still ran into the icy Pacific and built endless sand castles that were promptly destroyed by the ever viscous Sammy-osaurs.  We went kayaking in the same cold ocean through caves full of waves and next to rocks full of seals.  We even saw an otter, plus (bonus!) a seagull eating a really big fish.  I took very few pictures (great at the time, not so great now that I have none to share).  Overall, it was a successful, relaxing, gut-busting, familysickness-inducing trip.  And I want to do it again immediately.  Family, what do you say?  August is looking pretty open to me...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Second Hand Cliff Notes

My dear of a husband agreed to move into my place after the wedding and take on a ridiculous 1 hour PLUS one-way drive to work everyday.  Truth be told, on a given random Wednesday, he probably spends a rough 2 hours and 20 or so minutes in his Subaru (which, poor Subaru, still doesn't have a proper name).  Ben passes the time on his ghastly commute by listening to audio books.  The benefit to me comes later when, over dinner or teeth brushing, Ben fills me in on what he’s learned that day.  Personally, his taste in books is a little bland to me, as he tends to favor fact and biographies and presidents and I am just patiently waiting for Top Secret Twenty-One (The next installment in the ever wonderful Stephanie Plum Bounty Hunter Series...) to be published this June (!).  Regardless, he catches me up on the lives our of dead American patriots and I sort of follow along.  It's out shtick, and, if nothing else, at least it means I don't have to read the books myself.

So, straight from Ben's mouth and through my ears, for your reading pleasure, so that you may not need to pick up these books yourself, may I present to you...

Cliff Notes

American Prometheus

This one is about Mister J. Robert Oppenheimer, the modern day father of the atom bomb.  Oppenheimer was one messed up dude.  Messed up as in, he tried to kill his college TA with a poison apple.  That’s right, he tried to off a man Snow White style.  Then he went on to impregnate someone else’s wife.  Not cool.  He continues to slowly evolve into complete insanity and is accused of being a communist, all the while being a very key component in the completion of the atomic bomb.  Other things happen and oh, yeah, we drop the A-Bomb.  Not really a surprise ending there.

Guns, Germs, and Steel:

This wonderful brick of a book is all about why some civilizations not only exist but thrive and while others do not (and typically become completely annihilated by the more thriving civilizations).  Basically, if you are starting out your own civilization and would like it to succeed, you need to learn to grow wheat and corn fast, otherwise you will not become technologically advance.  This is important because you need you brain power to focus on other things, like how to use gunpowder for guns and not just for fireworks (silly Chinese…).  Also, surprisingly enough, you can’t domesticate elephants, you can only tame them.  There is a difference.  And apparently, it is important.

Kitchen Confidential:

This one is all about Anthony Bourdain: druggy turned famous chef.  He runs a tough kitchen.  He doesn’t want those entitled, classically trained preps.  Give him a minority line cook who understands the value of hard work and he'll give you the best line cook this side of the Delaware.  He'll also give you some interesting tidbits that will make you question the actual health and safety guidelines at every restaurant ever.  It can be gross at times, therefore I have tried to block those instances from my memory.  However, it is important to remember that should you end up in a kitchen with Anthony, don't take his dish towels.  He does not look kindly on that, and given how the rest of the story played out, I'm pretty sure he may cut you over some missing dish towels.  You have been warned.          

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Balk

Is it possible, that after only 12 posts in, I have lost my burning desire to be a blog writer?  Apparently, the answer is yes.  I actually have 2 posts locked and loaded, ready to shoot, but I am afraid to pull the trigger.  Mostly because once they have deployed, what will I write about?  Our happy little married life is sweetly mundane.  I can't exactly write about work.  And the most excited thing to happen to me over the weekend was that the next Game of Thrones book that I reserved at the library finally came in.  Oh!  And we took the most glorious 2 hour nap on Saturday afternoon.  Obviously, I am not the vast treasure trove of writing themes that I had previously thought.
Balking, as nature intended it.
So, naturally, my first instinct is to balk.  It is my tried and true natural human response.  I have been perfected the art form since I was 3 years old.

I'm not climbing Mom... Dad said I could be up here!
There are many situation in which the balk is not only important, but entirely appropriate.  These situations include, but are obviously not limited to:
  • When your mom asks how those college applications are coming along
  • When the ticket from that red light camera finally comes in the mail
  • On Monday morning when your husband asks what's for breakfast and you're just eating cereal
  • When your doctor asks if you've been taking those supplements she suggested last time to help counteract your insanely high triglyceride count
  • Or when your chiropractor asks if you've been doing the exercises he recommended to help strengthen your back
  • When someone at works ask who wants to cover for them while they are out on vacation
Anyways, for those slow on the uptake, this entire post was a balk (I told you, I am a natural.  I believe my parents would attest to that...).  But, it's the best kind of balk since it is only acting as a buffer, just the slightest pause of hesitation, pending the re-ignition of that old creative spirit o' mine.  I'm sure soon that the river of inspiration will begin to flood once again.  But, if you're feeling generous and want to throw some writing suggestions down there in the comments, I promise I won't balk at those...