Archive for August, 2010

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Surefire way to feel 100 times better…

August 24, 2010

…even if you weren’t feeling that badly to begin with.

For the last few days I have been on a organizing/cleaning my room kick.  I have some goals for moving my furniture around a bit and changing my desk from “place to pile paper” to actual work space.  As part of that I dumped the huge pile hidden under the roll-top of my desk on the floor and have been paper sorting.  Most of the time this is pretty dull work, but parts of it are pretty awesome.

For example going through the accumulated letters and cards I have received for the past 8 years or so.  The (several!) letters Steph wrote me the summer she was in Oregon and I was in Northern Ireland.  The card that someone (who instigated this?) had lots of my friends sign for me while I was spending the semester down in Indianapolis.  The regular (like clockwork) cards I have received from my Aunt Mary.  The hilarious postcard from David in which he replied to my tweet from Europe. The many birthday messages and general wonderful cards I have received from girl friends over the years full of appreciation, encouragement, random news & gossip and the general feeling of support.  Sometimes I forget how insanely lucky I am to have so many supportive and wonderful friends in my life.  So if you are one of those people who have written me (letters, cards, emails, postcards, blog comments) over the years, Thank you!

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Belated Vacation Recap: Seattle

August 23, 2010

As time goes on and I get further and further away from the acceptable week or so in which one traditionally posts recaps of trips, my motivation to write-up an extensive recap of my awesome trip to Seattle fades.  So that I don’t actually ignore it completely I am going to finish off with two uber photo heavy posts.  Besides, doesn’t everyone just look at the pictures anyway? 🙂

What better way to start off a vacation recap, than with a picture of a doughnut the size of your face. Okay, it wasn't really quite that big, but Top Pot knows how to make some incredibly delicious treats. David, Becca and I went there our first Saturday in Seattle, before meeting up with Miriam, Ellen (her sister) and Katie for tramping around downtown and the obligatory trip to Theo Chocolate.

On Sunday, Katie rented a zip car and we all (minus Meryl, who was in San Fransisco at the time) headed over to Vashon Island. David took this photo on the ferry ride over and I think it is definitely one of my favorite Miriam/Abby pictures ever.

Once we got to Vashon we drove around the island for a bit to get our bearings and then promptly got lunch at The Hardware Store. I had heard about this restaurant on one of the food blogs I read and we were all quite happy with the choice. While we had originally wanted to order non-brunch food and were disappointed to see only burgers as our option, we quickly changed our tune. These were incredible! All of them made with sustainable, local beef, they were juicy, tender, flavorful and just out of this world. Plus mine had bleu cheese and bacon, which I found out causes heaven in your mouth!

After lunch, we wandered around various fun shops before heading to the south point on the island where we climbed the lighthouse and got a great view of Mount Rainer.

I have a bad habit of making people pose for group shots wherever I go. This is mainly a bad habit in that it involves me rigging tripods for my camera using tree branches, rocks or in this case driftwood.

After the lighthouse we went to a nearby lavender farm, where we relaxed with some lavender lemonade lavender earl grey iced tea.

As a through and through lavender lover, Becca was in her element here and picked a large bunch which later played a key role in an INCREDIBLE dessert.

We ended our great day trip to Vashon with a stop at a local winery where we sampled a few wines and even a very petulant (their description, not mine) hard cider. Here David demonstrates effective tasting technique.

After we got back from Vashon, Katie's roommate surprised us with an amazing BBQ feast (it was quite the day for good food) and we also got to meet a few of Katie's other friends who happen to have one of the world's cutest babies.

The next day we had lots of grand adventures and then Becca and I prepared a birthday feast for Katie, housemates, David, Meryl, Miriam and ourselves. I made a smoked mozzarella, chicken sausage, herb & tomato pasta dish and Becca made this fabulous lavender creme brulee. I should note that she is now hooked enough that Jess and I felt required to get Becca her very own butane torch for her birthday.

Tuesday night we met up with Katie, David & Meryl post work for a picnic in Gasworks park.

It was a beautiful evening and Seattle got to show itself off a little bit.

David, Becca, Meryl and I ended the evening by playing 2 Truths & A Lie (much harder when you are playing with old friends and not new people) and watching the sunset.

The next day, Miriam, Becca, Katie and I had a highly indulgent afternoon at a local tea shop that serves high tea. What a delicious tower of food! Also I was not actually grumpy that day, I just didn't know that Katie was taking a picture 🙂

Oh and we also got pedicures, crazy good day. Can you guess which foot belongs to which friend?

To finish up this recap, I figure I will include one more picture of amazing food. This is in Meryl's apartment where she and her roommate cooked us up an amazing feast of summer squash, corn, fava beans, tortalini and pesto. We also had some incredible cherry/mint mojitos. There was a lot of amazing food on this trip.

Well that ends this recap, only one left! Vancouver weekend, here we come!

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Belated Vacation Recap: Where I pretend to be a fashion blog

August 21, 2010

Starting a year or so ago, maybe more, I discovered this thing called a fashion blog. It started with Fashionist, picked up The Sartorialist along the way, got greatly inspired by Blue Collar Catwalk, loved the sophistication of Frocks & Frou Frou, had its eyes opened to the worlds of body acceptance by Sal of Already Pretty, felt a kindred spirit in Ashley of Yammering Muse‘s inspiring vintage ensembles and cheered on Gabi of Young, Fat & Fabulous.

Reading fashion blogs led me to start rethinking not only the way I choose my outfits, but also the way I view my own outward appearance.  Maintaining a positive body image has been a constant battle for me.  Growing up (especially in high school), I struggled with feeling beautiful and because I didn’t fit the molds of smaller sized women, I felt completely cut off from the opportunity to enjoy clothes.  Clothes shopping for me was all about finding a store that carried larger sizes and less about the clothes themselves. I still remember the revelation that was discovering Lane Bryant.  But even then, I felt like clothes were about fitting in and covering up enough of myself to feel normal, not about helping express my own preferences/taste/style or about helping me gain confidence in my outward appearance. Now I am not saying that clothes are the answer to low self-esteem, not at all.  But gaining confidence in my own sense of style and allowing myself to consider clothing options that I would have previously considered off-limits due to my size, has been hugely influential in the small inroads I have made to accepting and loving my own body.

The "pre-packing lay all my clothes out on the bed" routine

So where is this all leading too? Well, I decided to use my two week vacation to Seattle as a chance to challenge myself.  Instead of packing the usual hodge-podge of random clothes, I would try to pack in such a way that I would be able to produce 12 unique and fun outfits that would both work for vacation activities (you know walking around looking at things and sitting in coffeeshops) but would also be ones that made me feel positively about myself.

What the clothes looked like in the suitcase (although I had a few clothes in another layer on top of this).

Thanks in huge part to Becca, my willing photo taker, I fulfilled my daily outfit challenge, but I have to say it was harder than I thought it would be and not for the reasons I had expected.  Here is some of what I learned:

My outfit for a day trip to Vashon Island where burgers were eaten, lighthouses were climbed, tea/book shops were browsed and wine was tasted.

First, posing for daily pictures is hard! I was amazed how self-conscious it made me.  While I have done a decent job of getting over issues about not always being amazingly photogenic, the act of getting someone to take a picture of me EVERY day was hard.  I found that I tended to want to berate myself for being so egotistical as to want to photograph myself.  Who was I to be posing for pictures? What was everyone else thinking when they saw me posing for my pictures? Would they think I was full of myself? Would they judge my clothes, judge me? I find this to be interesting, considering how much I enjoy seeing other people’s daily outfit photos and appreciate the time they take to do so.  But for some reason when I tried it myself I was often left feeling awkward.  I think if I were to keep up this practice, I would eventually get over this issue, but for my 2 week experiment this was one of the hardest parts.

I wore this for shopping on the ave, the Underground tour and the cooking of a yummy meal.

Second, posing itself was also hard! In addition to the awkwardness of having someone take a photo of you every day, there is the what do I do with my hands, my feet, my head part. In other words how the heck do people pose so naturally in their shots, boy howdy!  I ended up doing variations of the same two poses for most of the week, but I definitely have a growing appreciation for people who make posing seem so natural and flawless.

Probably my favorite outfit of the trip, we wondered around Fremont, met up for lunch and had a picnic supper this day.

Layers are your friend! Especially when trying to dress for the cool/warm combo that is a beautiful Seattle summer day. This outfit ended up being perfect for the entire day starting in the overcast morning and finishing with the cool after a sundown at Gasworks Park.  But as I also learned, keeping layers simple also lets fun pieces like this dress shine through.  I think the Menno in me loves the dress even more because it came from my new favorite thrift store, Unique.

I wore this outfit for a day of walking around Vancouver.

Finally, keep it simple! Sometimes the most basic outfits ended up being my favorite, for example this is just jeans and tee shirt, but with my hat and earrings it ended up feeling perfect for a day of walking around and exploring a new city.

So there you have it, my attempt at being a fashion blog and some of the things putting more effort into my clothing choices have taught me about myself.  While body acceptance and being comfortable in my own skin is a continual effort (and probably one I could get several more posts out of) this was a fun experiment in how taking time to consider my fashion, helps me gain confidence in my outward presentation to the world.  And as I have often experienced, confidence seems like a long spiral of “fake it, till you make it”.

Most of all I am interested in what you all think. What role does clothing play for you? Is fashion a possible source of confidence for you or something you try to ignore? Are there clothes that make you feel special when you wear them? I would love to hear what you think.

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Thoughts on change

August 15, 2010

I have always been someone who loves change, or at least the thought of it.  Moving to England, moving to Seattle, starting new jobs, instantly fitting into new social circles, decorating new apartments, exploring new cities, all of those tend to sound good to me.  Change is thrilling. Change is leaving everything I don’t like about my current life and finding something new.  Change is easy and full of adventure.  Change means getting rid of responsibilities that continually try to persuade me I am actually an adult now.  But the thing that I always tend to forget is that change also means leaving things.  Change means leaving people, housemates, friends, communities, churches, familiar neighborhood walks, routine, favorite coffee shops, and the some times familiarity of random people on the streets.

Feeling apart of the community here in Rebaland (many people’s affectionate nickname for the neighborhood around my church) was not something that happened quickly or was easy for me.  As I approach the end of graduate school and the beginning of a huge widening of options (stay at my current job, get a new job in the area, move to Seattle, go overseas for a year, move down into the city, stay at my current house, etc), it is always to easy for me to overlook the difficulties of change.  It took me over 2 years to begin to feel apart of my community, to get to the point where people I randomly pass on the street are often people I know, to feel comfortable using my leadership skills to plan goofy charade games for church meetings.

In the end change, and all its endless possibilities, will always thrill me, but as I am learning change, once it actually occurs, can also be overwhelming, difficult and painful.  This doesn’t mean I don’t want to seek out change, but I think I need to also remember to appreciate more the richness of being here, in one place, with one community and learning to adapt myself to it.

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Belated Vacation Recap: The train

August 15, 2010

So I can’t believe it was almost a month ago already that Becca and I headed out on the Empire Builder to go visit friends in Seattle.  I have been to Seattle several times before, in fact it has been a yearly tradition since some of my very dear friends from college decided to move out there in 2006 (thus making this my 4th Seattle trip if you do the math).  Anyways this time, given our more open schedule, Becca and I decided to take the train.  A very different concept than the 3 1/2 hour plane ride, this left Chicago on a Wednesday afternoon around 2pm and took until 10am on Friday to get us to Seattle.  But man, oh man was it worth it.  I will let my pictures do most of the talking here, but I will say 46 hours of TV on DVD watching, reading, SIMS playing, and just staring out the window can actually be pretty good.

We didn't have to wait until we got to Montana to see some gorgeous sceneary, even plan ole Wisconsin can look pretty spectacular.

The lounge car was one of the best parts of the train; seats that faced the window, curved windows above that went down almost to the floor and even occasionally park rangers to tell you all about a particular location.

These South Dakotan hills were our first indication that we were entering The West

How we kept ourselves entertained: Books, episodes of Bones, cards, etc

I absolutely loved this scenery.

We even saw some horses from the train, no moose though.

Thursday evening brought us beautiful sunset sky as we approached the mountains of Glacier National Park

We also ended up seeing two sets of double rainbows that evening.

This leg of the trip was by far my favorite.

Glacier National Park

We saved the pesto for our last meal on the train, super yummy pita, cheese sticks, cherry tomatoes and pesto sauce!

The next morning we were still going through mountains.

Washington is a beautiful state.

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random conversation tidbits

August 13, 2010

Me: How do you spell whiney? w-h-i-n-n-y ?

Becca: Hmm, I think that spells whinny, as in horse sound

Me: Oh, so I probably don’t mean to say “humidity makes me whinny”

Becca: Neigh

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ah poor neglected blog

August 7, 2010

What sorry treatment you have received as of late, I realized that the last month to accumulate more than 4 posts in total was March!  Hmmm, maybe my goal for August will be to actually get a post written every week.  There’s nothing like making low-setting goals to allow oneself the option to trip and fall very short distances!

Anyways last week I finally made it back home from my epic (and 4th (5th if you count West Coast in general)) trip to Seattle.  I have been busily processing photos in an effort to produce several recap posts including (SPOILER ALERT) one in which I may pretend I am a fashion blog.  But for now I think I will update you all the past days.

Becca and I arrived home Tuesday evening and were welcomed home into the loving arms of Jess (Thanks again for picking us up, you rocking friend you!) and hot and heavy Chicago humidity (Seattle 1 Chicago 0).  Unfortunately the reunion of Becca, Jess and I was a short fated one, because Thursday afternoon Jess headed off on a 2 week East Coast road trip with her Mom.  But Becca and I plan on making the best of it by thoroughly testing out Becca’s new butane torch (Creme Brulee for everyone!) which Becca received during her belated birthday dinner at an awesome Persian restaurant (best dish = ground walnut and pomegranate sauce over chicken).  Before that dinner on Wednesday night, I spent most of the day moping around trying to catch up on life (i.e. emails, student teaching prep, church business, etc) and figure out why, during my absence,  my last Jade plant (the first one succumbed to a weird powdery mold thing (pleasant I know!)) committed a weird form of suicide by collapsing over the side of its pot.

Then on Thursday I set of to Dominican to take my Ed Psych correspondence course mid-term.  Thanks to the unfortunate limits of the CTA I ended up walking 3 miles round trip and picked the wrong sandals to do so in.  But that didn’t stop me from, 80 multiple choice questions later, meeting up with, a recently arrived via train, Jonathan for a wonderful lunch of baguette, fancy cheese, olive pate and fresh cherries.  Then we wondered around downtown together looking at things like the jet engines on top of the Art Institute, the giant eyeball near the library and the small part of the Chicago Cultural Center that wasn’t closed off for a big Obama fundraiser later that night (we weren’t invited! so rude!).  Then after telling Jonathan of my recent attempts to learn to like beer, we decided “hey we are over 21 and wandering around a town that often has these little establishments that will sell you beer at 3:30 in the afternoon!” so we went to Berghoff and had some beers.  Jonathan got this Green something or other IPA which he liked and I thought was kind of gross (it had EXTRA hops!) and I had a hefeweizen which Jonathan said was a really odd kind of wheat beer and I thought was actually not half bad, especially served cold and with a lemon wedge.  So Jonathan and I hung and talked about life, change, memories and other random things.  Then we got a call from Tim saying that he was arriving in downtown so we went and met up with him briefly before Jonathan hopped on a train to Goshen and Tim and I headed back north. After small group (and an awesome dinner consisting of bruschetta, injera, and a spinach/lentil Ethiopian stew) I hung out with Becca and friends for a little while before heading home to a much longed for bed.

Then Friday morning I drove home for a brief 48 hour Goshen visit which ended up being completely wonderful.  I hung out with my parents, did laundry (yes, I am 26 and still occasionally take my laundry home to my parents’ house!), edited vacation photos, played Tichu, made and ate Mountain Pies, finally hit up a First Friday in downtown Goshen with Miriam (3rd city we have hung out in over the past month!), chatted with Miriam and Steph at the Chief, had baked oatmeal, helped Steph make pickle relish (or at least start the process), held her 2 month old nephew, met up with Charlee for a long overdue 2 hour lunch, played more Tichu with the family and drove myself home in record low traffic time.

Which brings me to now where I am now; laying on my bed, ignoring the basket of clean laundry, the still partially unpacked suitcase and general mess on my floor, all so I can write this blog post.  Looking back at I just realized how long this entry is getting, so please excuse my rambles, I think I get verbose when I am happy.  Goodnight you’ll!