Friday, April 29, 2011
Unsurprisingly, but apparently still newsworthy, the art of cursive handwriting is going down the drain as we all rely more and more on computers. In addition, the education system's current focus on standardized testing means that teachers are dedicating as much time as they can to topics covered by those tests, leaving very little time for handwriting classes.
I'm a little torn on how I feel about this. I remember being so excited about learning to write in cursive in second grade. And I remember being quite smug about how good my cursive was and the amount of praise I got from my second grade teacher for my handwriting. I continued to use cursive most of the time up until probably sometime in middle school. (I would give you an exact year, but sadly, my old yearbooks are stashed in my parents' house so I can't say for sure when I transitioned back to printing. Sad, right?) But since then? Printing all the way. And now that I'm not taking notes in class anymore, even my printing suffers on occasion.
Something about cursive still appeals to me though. It's pretty and fancy in a way that my printing will never be. And I like the fact that it looks a little old-fashioned to my modern sensibilities. And I chose to address all of our wedding invitations in cursive for both of those reasons and also because it felt proper to me--like my grandmother would have approved.
Despite the fact that I like the way it looks, it's not a skill that I need in everyday life, so I guess I'd be hard pressed to say that I think it's a terribly crucial skill for children to learn. The article does raise some interesting points though, particularly that kids who don't learn to write well in cursive have difficulty reading cursive, including important historical documents. This sounds a little crazy to me, until I remember that cursive writing looked like a mysterious secret code to me when I was in first grade. Will cursive handwriting become a skill that history students study in college in order to read primary sources?
Do you typically use cursive or printing? Do you think cursive is a skill that matters? Are you shrugging or appalled by the idea of the next generation not having cursive signatures?
Thursday, April 28, 2011
2. I scraped my elbow and wrist going down a slide with one of the nephews last weekend. I then tried to be a good girl and keep it covered with neosporin and band-aids, but alas, it seems that I am allergic to some varieties of band-aids. Now I have not just a scrape but also red itchiness around it.
3. I finished re-reading the first Harry Potter book--6 more to go!
4. On Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. one of the smoke detectors decided its battery was dying and it started chirping. I stumbled around in the dark with a chair taking down smoke detectors until I found the right one. And then just as we were falling back asleep, the cats decided to be noisy and obnoxious.
5. I took the day off work tomorrow, and today I suddenly wondered if people think I took the day off to watch the royal wedding. I didn't. Promise. If it weren't for Twitter, I probably wouldn't even know when the wedding is.
6. Honeymoon planning seems to have stalled. Anyone have recommendations on a cheap hotel in Athens?
7. We started scrapbooking the wedding and wedding planning, but that also seems to have stalled. Scrapbooking stuff is still strewn all across the kitchen table though, so we either have to get back to it soon or put it away so I can bake more cookies.
8. Inspired by a couple blogs mentioning kale chips being delicious, I bought a bunch of kale at the farmers market yesterday. I'll let you know what I think after I make them this weekend. But pretty much, I read multiple places about "this vegetable that my picky, vegetable-hating kids love" and figured I had to try it.
9. Our cat Cricket seems to think she's a dog. Instead of just letting us pet her like a normal cat, she insists on licking our hands.
10. One of the things I love about living in this part of the country is all the flowering trees in the springtime. (My allergies don't love this, but fortunately they hasn't been bad at all this year.) Case in point: this is the tree in front of our house right now.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Happily, our friends and family came through. And they did it in fun ways that fit us. I apologize for the exceptionally poor quality of some of these photos; we were having camera issues.
From there we headed to a delicious dinner (and drinks) at Five Napkin Burger. Becky and I try hard to be frugal when it comes to eating out, but Kara knew we had been salivating over the idea of these over-priced burgers and so she put them on the itinerary. And I can tell you they're seriously worth the price. Yum. Definitely competition for the best burger I've had. We followed that up with drinks at a local bar, and then capped the evening off with desserts at Edgar's Cafe. We cannot thank our friends enough for pulling off such a fun-filled surprise day of bachelorettey-ness. And, we especially enjoyed spending time with these lovely ladies, as they were among the young friends who were decidedly unable to make it to the also amazing shower.
We managed to coordinate a weekend about three weeks before the wedding for a whole host of people to descend upon the Twin Cities for wedding-preparation-palooza. Becky and I flew in from New Jersey, Jen and her son Matthew (free under-2 flight FTW) flew in from Massachusetts, and Becky's mom and aunt drove in from Eastern Wisconsin. We did hair trials, tied ribbons on favors, re-tasted cakes, folded program parts....and partied! (And yes, you read correctly, we tasted cakes for a second time.)
Our lovely hosts did up the fellowship hall of my church for a delicious English tea, and invited all of the women who were invited to the wedding. There were tables set up with small flower centerpieces in our wedding colors, several kinds of tea, fruit, scones with jam and clotted cream, and finger sandwiches. But most of all, there were three desserts, all cut into scrumptious tea-style bite size pieces. The desserts were designated Carrie's dessert, aka a childhood favorite called Chocolate Indulgence, Becky's dessert, aka pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, and the joint dessert, aka the cake that we adored at cake tasting but rejected due to the personality and attitude of the baker herself. It was pure caramel apple deliciousness, and for a shower cake the baker apparently did not feel the need to insult our design choices or stuff it full of styrofoam dummy cakes. A few points off for my mom though, who accidentally revealed my sister's well plotted surprise by including Becky and I on a planning e-mail. Oopsie!
Becky's mom planned a fun little trivia game regarding places that we have traveled together, and put together a photo album for us of pictures from many of those travels. She also supplied many of those pictures (y'know, the ones of us with food...because we apparently love to take them!) to my sister for use in an ingenious shower gift, especially for people with lots of long distance friends and family. We received a cookbook filled with recipes and memories, submitted by tons of our wedding invitees including many who were able to attend the shower and many who were not able to attend. It was especially nice to see some of our younger friends represented who both couldn't attend in person and weren't able to send shower gifts - but obviously still wanted to send love! Here is us examining our cookbook with my sister:
But yes, we did also receive lots of very generous shower gifts for which we are very grateful as well. During the gift-opening Matthew entertained himself very well by ferrying gifts to us and used wrapping materials from us to the trash bag. He also did an excellent job helping set out folding chairs and helping my dad load our presents into the car at the end of the event!
Monday, April 25, 2011
As any of you who have been following for a while or who know us in real life could predict, we spent the holiday weekend in Massachusetts with my sister and her family. My parents also flew in for the holiday (and of course the grandbaby time), so we spent lots of quality time with my family.
Becky and I lived with my sister and brother-in-law for eight months several years ago, back in their relaxed pre-children days and our pre-grad-school days. I've always been close with my sister, and I have recently been (lovingly) accused of being obsessed with my nephews. They live near enough that we can easily go for a weekend, but far enough that it really does have to be a full weekend. We have their garage door opener, know the security codes, and pretty much get how the place runs. Which all leads to the fact that their home is kind of like our second home. I must say that I am very lucky that my wife for the most part enjoys spending time with my family, and has also become close with my sister and brother-in-law and of course adores our nephews. (And I like her family too, but unfortunately they're a bit farther away!)
And so, yes, we spend a pretty large percentage of our holidays in Massachusetts.
Becky decided last week to get her bake on and whip up a batch of her aunt's delicious sugar cookies, with anticipation of convincing the nephews to help decorate. On rainy Saturday afternoon we stripped them down to diapers and set them to work. The highlights were probably Matthew's decorating technique of biting jelly beans in half, eating half, and using the remaining halves to decorate and Thomas' technique of letting us know he was done by picking up an undecorated cookie and licking the frosting off of it.
* Jen - is it Easter... Bunny Cookies? Or Easter Bunny....Cookies?!?!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
2. Our cat Cricket loves boxes, especially boxes that are a little bit too small to entirely fit her chubby body. She really enjoyed wedding gifts, although she is also still enjoying a shoe box my brother-in-law left here several years ago. Yes, we indulge her by keeping these ridiculous boxes.
3. In the 16 months since we got Android phones I fell in love with the NY Times app. It recently broke my heart. No, not by introducing the pay wall, but by ruining the app. I am so sad for this loss.
4. My favorite ice cream is Blue Bunny's cookie dough, because it has a delicious cookie batter ribbon.
5. We are spending a 3-day weekend in Ocean Grove in May and I am seriously impatient for it to come. The shore is by far and away my favorite part of living in New Jersey.
6. For the past 3 years we've had 10,000 places to see before you die wall calendars. This month we're visiting China's Yunnan Province. There will be pandas, which will make Becky happy.
7. Once I went to Edinburgh, Scotland and knowingly chose not to go see Emperor penguins at the zoo. I have regretted this decision since.
8. Becky made sugar cookies today, and she saved a tasty chunk of uncooked dough for me (true love). We're planning to decorate them with our nephews in Massachusetts this weekend; maybe we'll let the other adults play too.
9. Our cat Piccadilly has been waking us up precisely at 6:00am several mornings this week. This has led her to receive death threats from her mommies. Kitty needs to remember that tired mommies are not fun mommies!!
10. Happy Easter and Passover to all who celebrate either!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
To kick things off, I wanted to tell you a bit about our invitations and other paper items. Sadly, we forgot to have our photographer take a picture of our invitation, so some of the pictures here aren't the best. (memo to brides-to-be: send an invite to your photographer or have an invite there on the day of and then remember to give it to him/her to photograph.We missed that step.)
We sent out Save-the-Date postcards about six months before our wedding. We designed them in Microsoft Publisher and then got them printed through Vistaprint. If you're looking for cheap postcards, they're a great source, but make sure you do a quick search for freebies first! We got our postcards free but had to pay for shipping and a set-up fee for the custom design.
|Image came out a little blurry here, but they printed great!|
The invitations...were probably the one area of the wedding where I went the most insane. From the moment I heard the word "pocketfolds", I was in. They're so organized! And neat! And all the little cards line up so nicely! Also, they are expensive, so clearly we needed to find some ways to make them less so. We ordered the folders and envelopes from Cards & Pockets, and I seriously cannot say enough good things about them. The prices were great, quality was excellent, their shipping was quick, and the customer service was awesome. We designed the invitations and inserts in Publisher, with a little bit of work (map cards, some image stuff) done in a free 30-day trial of Adobe Illustrator. I used this tutorial to design the map card, and I am proud to say that I managed to get through it without actually throwing my computer out the window, though I was tempted at many times.
We then had the lovely custom printing people at Cards & Pockets print the invitations. Our printer is ten years old and we don't bother to keep color ink in it, so printing the invitations ourselves would have involved buying a new printer. By getting them to do the printing, we ended up saving money and avoided the hassles of printing and cutting all of the pieces. And their rates were extremely reasonable--much cheaper than we were quoted anywhere else.
Once we had all the pieces, step 1 for us (well, me) was addressing the envelopes. Since I did these by hand, in cursive, it took a little longer than I anticipated. While I worked on that, Carrie painstakingly stamped our return address and the little squares we cut for the belly bands. For those of you who are new here, check out these awesome pictures of us hard at work on these projects.
Once those steps were complete, we dragged everything up to Carrie's sister's house for a weekend of invitation assembly. We set up a big table in their living room, and Carrie, Jen, and I became a craft factory, while Sean kept the boys out of the way for a miraculously long period of time. (Thanks again, J and Anonymous!)
|Important lesson: old medical school textbooks are extremely good weights for ensuring your adhesive is stuck.|
|We used the belly band squares in place of the inner envelope, so for everyone else, these said the guests' names.|
Once those were on their merry way, the biggest paper project left was the ceremony program. We designed these in Publisher, and after trying to find a local printer that was even remotely reasonable, we decided to have Cards & Pockets print them as well. Then all we had to do was cut the vellum, hole punch them, and tie ribbons through each one. Voila:
|Photo by Becca Dilley|
For those of you keeping score at home, here's what we used and where we got it:
- Folders, envelopes, silver backing for belly band squares, and printing: Cards & Pockets
- Purple hemp paper for backing on main invitation panel: Paper Depot, Minneapolis, MN (also great customer service and lots of ideas--definitely worth a trip if you're in the area!)
- Adhesive: Tombow MONO adhesive (Bought at Paper Depot but I've since seen at A.C. Moore)
- Custom return address stamp: Etsy seller kiss + tell
- Ribbon: Michaels (gotta love their coupons!)
- Swirl stamp and ink pad: The Ink Pad (super-cute stamping store in NYC)
- Vellum paper for programs: Paper Presentation (in NYC)
Monday, April 18, 2011
Although I already owned several of the books (and now of course cannot find most of them), in 2007 Becky and I were not anywhere near engaged, and therefore she felt a burning desire to own them all herself. She obsessed. She pre-ordered. She obsessed more. And then she stashed. Every time another of the movies has come out we have chatted about a need to re-read the books. Every time we have chatted about pulling the trunk out. And every time we have eventually gone to see the movie without re-reading the books. But this summer the final movie is coming out, and by golly (haha, I can't believe I just wrote that), this time we're going to re-read the books.
UPDATE: After exclaiming "My trunk got locked!" she figured out how to open it, confirmed that her books were still shrink-wrapped, and started playing with the enclosed bonus stickers for decorating the trunk. And then she declared that her books are exempt from the joint property conferred by marriage, and that the trunk is locked so I cannot get in. I am feeling the love, how about you?
P.S. For some reason blogger is having a lot of issues with my attempts at spacing lately. I apologize.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Today though...we got to have a previously dubbed Carrie-style day! (Also a misnomer, since Becky had an awesome time too.) It was the first really gorgeous spring day that happened to fall on a weekend, which felt especially lucky after the end-of-the-world storm on Saturday. But first we enjoyed nutella-filled Frenched tortillas.
Then we headed to Central Park, which was swarming with people who obviously had the same train of thought as we did. Sheep's Meadow was filled with little groups of people sunbathing, tossing frisbees, and watching their adorable children toddle around. It's intriguing to me the way that people in cities do so many things in public that suburbanites save for private, but city dwellers do them in parallel, hardly acknowledging the crowds around them.
Tavern on the Green, formerly a fancy iconic New York restaurant, re-opened as a parks gift store and food truck food court. To celebrate the re-envisioning and kick off the season they had sample day today. Each cart offered part of their usual fare for free! Rickshaw dumplings were delicious as always; Pera Turkish tacos left something to be desired (unadvertised pickled beets have no place in my lamb taco, and cheap grocery store tortillas are not alternatively called "lavash bread"). Even standing in line forever for hit-or-miss food felt lovely though, with the live band, warm sun, and cool breeze.
After eating we decided to do something unplanned: we rented a tandem bike! Becky had never ridden one, I had not ridden one since childhood (Itasca State Park, family?), and between us we've logged about 3 hours of bike riding total in the past 10 years. Becky's going to come back and argue that she rode occasionally in college, but I'm not sure you can call the hunk of junk that she rode in college a bike. We managed to survive a full 6 mile loop around the park, including hills! And it was pretty freaking awesome! On several occasions Becky whimpered that I was trying to kill her, but that's all part of the fun, right? Unfortunately while on the bike we were too focused on pedaling and not crashing to try for a decent picture, but here's one of Becky steering it back to its owners:
We then wandered to the east side (a place we typically avoid going!) to attempt to use a Crate and Barrel gift card before a wedding completion discount ends. We couldn't choose though, so ended up just browsing. And then for some inexplicable reason we decided to walk the 2+ miles back to the bus terminal. On the way we happened upon a premiere party for the new movie Water for Elephants. Quintessential New York, right? (It was a fabulous book too, so hopefully the movie is good!) As proof, here is the back of Reese Witherspoon's head:
In other news we did make a decision on the cable issue, but probably not the one Cablevision or Verizon wanted us to make. We canceled the cable, to save us about as much as Fios would have saved us. And this way we don't have to spend an entire day at home, get landlord permission, or otherwise deal with the hassle of changing providers.
I hope all of your weekends were as lovely!
Friday, April 15, 2011
In case you haven't sensed it from our blog, the last few weeks have been...insane. Both of us have been pretty stressed out by our jobs and putting in a lot of hours at work. By the time we get home, we end up throwing something together for dinner, leaving the dishes for later, and sitting on the couch staring at our computers.
Needless to say, this cycle isn't doing much for our individual mental health, nor for our relationship. (The delay in dish-washing doesn't do our kitchen any good either.) I mean, we're surviving just fine, but our lives are definitely a much happier place to be when we're both feeling less stressed and exhausted. Of course I know what some of the most obvious solutions are to this problem: sleep more, clean as we go instead of letting it pile up, spend less time online and have more quality time together, and spend less time at work. All of these are logical steps to take, but all of them are much easier said than done. For example, the irony is not lost on me that I am currently writing a blog post about spending less time online and more time with my wife. I swear that as soon as I post this, I'm going to put the computer down. Pinky swear, even!
I posted this picture of us (from our engagement pictures, by the lovely Becca Dilley) because we look so calm and peaceful. It's one of my favorite pictures from that day, and it's actually the wallpaper on my computer desktop. Unfortunately, I rarely see the full picture because it's covered with a ridiculous assortment of files saved on my desktop. I've frequently noted throughout my adult life that my mental health bears a strong correlation with both the state of my home and the state of my desktop. All three seem to get cluttered up and reach a breaking point of "OMG something needs to change NOW" around the same time. I don't know if there's a cause/effect here and if so, which way it goes, but I seem to have reached a point where all three need some attention.
The desktop, of course, is the easiest thing to organize. And the apartment, while a disaster, is a fairly straightforward set of tasks--it doesn't even really matter which one I tackle first, as long as I just do something. But getting the rest of my life sorted out in a way that I'm able to spend quality time with my wife, have some time to myself, get my work done, and keep up with online friends and interests, is a little trickier.
So I ask you, dear readers, how do you balance all of these issues? And since I'm currently looking for ways to de-stress, what's your secret?
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
And yet, here I am with a contract in my hand. How did that even happen?
Luckily my contract does explicitly state that I can cancel within three business days and the whole thing will be forgotten. Ignore the fact that the salesman (accidentally?) back dated the contract by a day. So now I'm stuck. I almost want to call and cancel because I'm just plain mad that despite my best efforts I fell for their song and dance about discounts and good deals. But then I remember that if it's real, it could actually save us $30/month or so, which is pretty decent for Austerity April. Given that Frugal February and Moneyless March both failed it'd be nice to have a win for one month!
I wonder if other people feel as much annoyance at falling for gimmicks as I do. Decisions, decisions.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
We spent this weekend mostly hanging out at and near home. We did not even leave the state once. Our activities included grocery shopping, finishing our taxes, movie watching, baking homemade cinnamon rolls, Wii Sports Resort, cleaning, laundry, and scrapbooking. And rumor has it that Becky is going to play her trumpet in a little while! Rest assured, I did my part on cinnamon roll making….when an excess of frosting called for emergency action I was ready, willing, and able.
Although I enjoyed the weekend, I call this a Becky-style weekend. You see, we have somewhat of a fundamental difference of opinion regarding optimal weekends. After long draining weeks, which face it, we’ve had too many of recently, I believe that a weekend filled with some sort of exciting outing or adventure is the best way to recuperate and prepare for what comes next. Becky prefers bumming around the house, spending time together doing routine errands, baking, and taking time for other at-home hobbies.
I think this debate is a little bit like the introvert vs. extrovert question, except that we are both decidedly introverts. Introverts prefer to recharge their batteries by spending time alone or with small groups of closely known people; extroverts prefer to recharge their batteries at big parties. I learned in a psychology class in college that something like 75% of the world is extroverts. I think it might be lower among people who like to socialize on the internet though!
Our difference of opinion has caused many an argument, but I suppose this kind of disagreement is part of marriage. Do you and your spouse/significant other agree on how to recharge after a draining week? What is your point of view on lazing about vs. adventures?
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Or maybe that only happens to me? Maybe the rest of you are smart enough to just put down the computer and go to bed already? I hope so because I think it's probably a much happier way to live your life. I keep meaning to try it.
Fortunately, the weekend is coming soon. Oh, sweet weekend. I am trying to ignore the pile of dishes that we didn't wash tonight after dinner and therefore will still be around tomorrow when that weekend begins.
But because I love you, dear readers, instead of pictures of my exhausted life, I will leave you with lovely pictures of a recent baking escapade. I made snickerdoodles a couple weeks ago. Who'd have thought that a cookie scoop and the perfectly even cookies it produces could bring me such joy?
Monday, April 4, 2011
Once on Staten Island we boarded a city bus for an incredibly long bus ride. Whoever designed the bus route was apparently in a contest to see if s/he could design a route that drove on every single street on the entire island. At the end though, we were rewarded with a glorious view. We tried several times to take a decent hold-out picture of ourselves, but apparently I was in an unphotogenic mood. Plus I neglected to bring sunglasses like those smarties. This is the best we managed to produce. We wandered the boardwalk and admired the view. We also decided that we were not too sad that it was not swimming weather: It may be gorgeous, but it's still Staten Island after all. (Hey, I live in New Jersey...there has to be somebody left to make fun of.)
The internet informed us that a common Staten Island beach conversation involves the phrase "meet me at the Dolphin Statue." On our approach to the statue we split up and pretended to meet at the statue. Yes, this is what we do for fun on the weekends. And we wonder why we don't have more friends. :) Kara and Becky practiced meeting while I took their picture.After that we headed back towards the ferry terminal. We attempted to get a drink at a random Russian/Greek restaurant, but they didn't seem to want us. So eventually we ended up at a decent little pub and enjoyed a drink, then tried to get on the return ferry. Due to an issue with the ferry we had a little extra time to kill and wound up wandering in to a high school baseball game at the minor league stadium. The stadium is right on the water and has a really nice view behind the field; we're considering attempting a Staten Island Yankees game this summer.
We enjoyed another drink on the return ferry, because apparently drinking beer on the ferry is "a thing" and that's just the sort of thing we do. We waved to Lady Liberty and returned safely to the island from whence we came. And that concludes another chapter of Weekend Adventures!