Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lose 30 by 40

In exactly 8 months, I will turn 40. I have decided that since I'm done having children (unless the Good Lord plays a really sick and twisted joke on me) I need to lose this baby weight once and for all. So... I'm starting a new effort.

I like to call it "Lose 30 by 40".  Pretty obvious that I want to lose 30# by the time I turn 40.

Yesterday I started my variation of the South Beach Diet. That means that it has been roughly 43.5 hours since I have had sugar or flour. Yesterday was a breeze. Today, not so much. I think by tomorrow I might be in prison for maiming someone.

I've been testing code today at work. Doing things like searching for anchor tags and proper header order, making sure frame titles are present and meaningful, and making sure that hover text can be spawned by using your 'enter' key. Really fun stuff. Aside from it being boring, the code is buggy as hell (which means that it's broken) And broken code a week before deployment stresses me the heck out.

Funny thing, I've learned that I'm a stress eater. Oh I knew this before, but it's interesting to actually see it in action. I've gotten up twice without noticing it to head to the vending machine. Both times I grabbed a coffee stirrer to chew on. It's helping.

I texted my friend G who is going gluten and dairy free because of GI issues. Told her I was jonesing for m&ms. She gave me a fantastic visualization technique. Told me to imagine those m&ms stuck on my rear end. It gave me the giggles. But it kind of grossed me out enough to decide that the straw to chew on (and another cup of watered down coffee) was enough to keep me going.

So wish me luck. I'll post about my progress from time to time... Encouragement is WELCOME!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

I have not forgotten

...to finish my Italy posts.

My mom just returned from Japan and has these fabulous daily accounts of her trip. I had planned on writing them out as I was in Italy, but that didn't happen. She is making me feel guilty for not keeping up with the recaps of my trip!

So stay tuned. I really do want to post about the Colosseum (my favorite part of the trip) and our stay in Sperlonga, where the views were spectacular. I promise to do so very soon.

Monday, June 18, 2012

We interrupt the Italy posts...

To blog a bit about the kiddos.

Last week Goblin figured out that she could get places by crawling a step or two, flopping on her belly to rest, then crawling a few more steps. Rinse, lather, repeat. It almost looked like a little frog hop maneuver.

Sophie, my brother's miniature schnauzer, was hanging out with us for the weekend, and Goblin was fascinated by her. She's so small and soft, and Goblin wanted very much to play with her. Because we like Sophie and didn't want her to lose an ear, we kept Goblin away from her.

But, like a teenager who is told she can't go out with her high school dropout boyfriend, our efforts to keep Goblin away from Sophie only intensified her desire to reach her.  Something finally clicked. The mechanics of crawling all of a sudden fell into place and she was off. She zipped across the floor and was caressing Sophie before I could get off the couch. Shortly after being denied access to Sophie, she zipped to the stairs, the power strip under the TV, and straight for the pile of shoes near the front door. (Gross. Shoes in her mouth? Gag, gag, gag.) My house is rapidly becoming babyproofed.

But learning how to crawl isn't enough, apparently. Now she has learned how to pull herself into a standing position. When she's indignant about being plopped into her crib for a nap, she no longer has to take it lying down. Oh no - now she can stand up, hold on to her crib gate, and scream to her heart's content. She hasn't quite figured out that it's safer to stand supported by something stationary. She thinks pulling herself up on something that's easy to grab is ok. Like, say, a blanket that's draped over the sofa. Or by grabbing a fist full of the dog's fur... That's not working out so well for her. I predict a few bruises in her future.

She is also teething, which is kind of sad and pathetic. The first tooth popped through without much fanfare, but that second one is a major pain in the ass. All day yesteray, she fussed, slobbered, and had a steady stream of clear snot coming out of her nose. She was slightly feverish, just enough to make her miserable. Tylenol was a miracle drug for a bit, but after it wore off, she was back to her state of misery.  Hopefully the subterranean tooth will join it's above-ground friend soon.

In other kid news, The Boy is enjoying his summer. He's got weight lifting for the summer football program, and he's active in our church's youth group. We're looking online for a summer writing workshop geared for teenagers. If I can find one that's reputable, it would be worth it for him.

Bumblebee is her usual crazy self. She chatters on and on to fill any silences that might occur in our household. If there's a lull in any conversation, she likes to say, "Well this is awkward!" It makes me laugh, because it's totally her personality, but I have to say that silence is such a rare commodity in our household these days that I don't share her perception of it being awkward.

Hollywood is enjoying her summer, and is working and getting ready for college. I'm pretending that college isn't going to happen, but I imagine that my head will be firmly yanked from it's cozy position in the sand once August rolls around.

I've got a couple more posts to prepare about our trip to Italy, so stay tuned if that's interesting to you. If not, well, stay tuned anyway. :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rome: The Churches and The Vatican

One of my favorite parts of Rome was popping into a church as we walked by it on the street. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that Rome, of all places, does churches right, but I was surprised at the absolute beauty of even the smaller churches that we saw.

When I walked into each church, as the hush fell upon the place and the noise of the street outside vanished, I looked around with awe. I wondered how long it must have taken to create the artwork, the stonework, the marble, etc. And then I just soaked it in.

We never made it to mass in one of these amazing churches while we were in Rome, and that is probably my only regret of the trip. I would have enjoyed it very much.

Here are some photos from the churches that were near our apartment:


The ceiling of this one was particularly beautiful with its vibrant colors and domed ceiling:


This isn't a great photo, but it illustrates the absolute grandeur of even a small altar within a church. Amazing.


We took this for The Boy because of his name:


The Vatican and St. Peter's
But of course the main church event of the trip was our day spent at the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican Museum was nothing short of amazing. It was crowded and you had to dodge people everywhere. There was a particularly annoying group of about 50 people wearing green shirts who were everywhere! The good thing about the museum is that it was huge, there were lots of rooms, and you could find a peaceful side room without the crush of the crowds that had amazing artifacts in it.

The museum wasn't just full of religious artifacts like I expected it to be. It was full of everything. Artwork like you have never seen, ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts (rooms and rooms of them) and of course statues and fountains and churchy stuff.

Artwork: I don't know much about art history, sadly. But even so, the art was amazing. Here are a few photos we took of the art.




Ancient Artifacts: And then there was the Ancient Egyptian section. I kept looking at things, amazed, wishing The Boy could see this stuff.

A 3700 year old Mummy who still had hair:

A breathtaking sarcophagus:

Ancient tablets that had writing on them and were said to be legal documents:

There were amazing views of Rome from the upstairs rooms of the museum:

Statues, Fountains, Churchy Stuff:
And then there were all of the other things - I can't even describe them. Statues, fountains, ceilings gilded with amazing artwork:



And of course, random arms attached to the wall:


The Sistene Chapel
The Sistene Chapel was breathtaking, but also a complete nightmare. We went to the Vatican Museum on a Thursday afternoon, which was supposedly a good time to go because it would be less crowded. Sheesh, if that's truly the case, I'd hate to be in that place on a 'crowded' day.

We weren't allowed to take photos in the chapel, but I'm sure you've heard all about how Michelangelo painted the ceilings with scaffolding and it took over four years to complete.  The ceiling was amazing, there are paintings that tell stories from the beginning of man - including the famous one where God is reaching out to take Adam's hand.  But my favorite part was the wall that included Michelangelo's Last Judgement. It's a huge painting that depicts the apocalypse and I could've stared at it for hours, if it weren't for the fact that I was being jostled by one meeeeeelion people. Goblin didn't like the crowds and was squirmy - so I had to nurse her to keep her quiet. I wonder if there's some sort of broken law to expose your breast (gasp!) in the Sistene Chapel. :)

St. Peter's Basilica

Here we are outside of the Sistene Chapel, before we went to St. Peter's:

St. Peter's was HUGE. And very cool. This is my favorite photo of that day, although the quality isn't great because it was taken from my phone. Goblin was amazed at everything she saw, and this is her "Whoa, Dude!" face:

This was the fountain inside the Basilica. It was huge - the cherubs were bigger than me:

Here's a cute shot of Hollywood and Goblin looking at the floors:

Inside of St. Peter's they had these creepy looking coffins that had stone statues of previous popes. One of them looked real and it was creeeeepy:

Outside in St. Peter's square, there was a huge mosaic attached to the front of some restoration work that I thought was cool:


Here are some photos we took of the outside of the Basilica and St. Peter's Square:





Our day spent at the Vatican and St. Peter's was amazing. I think you could spend days here and not see everything there is to see.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More of Rome: People and Motorcycles

I love people watching. I could do it all day long. I like to see what people are doing, what they’re wearing, how they are carrying themselves, if they’re happy, sad, angry, confused, etc. More often than not, I make up stories about them in my head.

Rome had some of the most amazing people watching I’ve ever seen. It was every bit as colorful as at the Iowa State Fair – and that’s saying a LOT! Here are a few examples:

I love this photo so much. I snapped it because it was McDonald’s – serving espresso and a breakfast roll (for 1.20!!) but right as I snapped it, this guy with the spiky hair and the man purse walked by. It totally makes the photo, doesn’t it?


Rome was full of such colorful people. The fashion was something else. People would walk down the cobblestone/brick streets in five inch stilettos at high noon. We saw one lady get her heel stuck in the road, but that didn’t seem to stop them.

Check out this lady and her dog:


We stayed in the fashion district in Rome and I felt like we were watching a parade of models walk by us at times. It was absolutely clear who was a tourist (comfy clothes) and who was a local.Roman people are skinny. Oh, I'm sure there are heavy Romans, but for the most part, the locals were all very svelte. Probably from walking everywhere. I'm pretty sure my chubbiness flagged me as an American right away.

It was fun to watch the Italians ride around on their scooters. They were fearless as they drove them, weaving in and out of lanes in traffic, alongside buses fearlessly.  Many of the smaller streets were for 'foot traffic only' but I think that must mean that motorcycles and scooters can go there too, because it was not uncommon to see small streets lined with motorcycles like this:


Here's another one. Cute little alley with bistro seats, and motorcycles everywhere:


The tourists were fun to watch too. Look at this lady. I want to be her when I retire. I LOVE the floral sun hat and the smile on her face:

hat lady

So this is a stall post of sorts, because I haven't uploaded many of my pictures to Flickr yet, but this weekend I will write more on the amazing sights we saw.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trip to Italy: Part 1 - The Feel of Rome

A few years ago, Hollywood talked about wanting to go to London someday. She had met some cousins of my mom's at a family reunion who live in England and thought it would be fun to go visit them. This is when the idea of the graduation trip was born. I told the kids that as a graduation present, they could pick any destination (within reason - we don't really want to travel to North Korea or anywhere unsafe) and go there with The Husband and me after graduation. I think of it as a sort of 'fond farewell' to them as they begin the next chapter of their lives and move away to college.

We began to research London and since this is the year of the Olympics being hosted there, we thought another destination might be a better choice. Hollywood's next choice was Italy. The Husband's mom (Grandma J) came along with us too, which meant that TH had to put up with four females on this trip (we brought Goblin along since I'm still nursing.) He did a great job putting up with us.

Because we got such a great deal of flights leaving on Memorial Day, we had to rush out of town immediately after the graduation party. It made for a looooooong few days, but was worth it. Our flights were uneventful and Goblin was a champion traveler. I was amazed at how well she tolerated the plane ride.

Once we got to Rome, our plan was to leave most things open so that we could be flexible if Goblin was having an off day. This worked well for us, but I like traveling this way, even when there isn't a baby along. I had a rough outline of what I'd like to see, and for the most part, we followed it, but there was some wiggle room. We used a guidebook to help (Rick Steves' Rome Guide) and there was a lot of useful information there.

We rented an apartment in Rome so that we could come back there if Goblin needed a nap or was just not enjoying all of our sightseeing and needed a break. The apartment was fabulous. It was a two bedroom, two bath apartment in a fabulous old building built in the 1500s. We stayed near the Piazza del Popolo, just off Via del Corso, which is a main north/south street in Rome.

This is a picture of our street. The entrance to our apartment was on the right of the photo, just to the right of the arbor vitae. The streets are brick and uneven, and really pretty. Our apartment windows were one floor above the maroon shutters that you see in this photo.
*Photo of our street in Rome

This meant we could look down on the street (foot traffic and delivery trucks only were allowed on it) and watch people eat their breakfasts at the cafe. We weren't the only ones spying on the people down below:


That area of Rome houses a ton of shops that range from cheap everyday clothing shops like H&M to high end designers I'd never heard of. Here are some photos from the shops.






Here's one called da DADA. Which we thought was funny because, well, The Husband is "Da Da Da":


Not all of the shops were fancy - there were plenty of street kiosks like this one selling touristy stuff:


And the shoes... Oh there were amazing shoes in Rome:



Just around the corner was a really great wine shop. It was dark and beautiful:


Our apartment was in a great location because we were within walking distance of the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Venezia, the Trevi Fountai - basically the center of Rome - and about a million streetside restaurants. Here are some of the sights we took in as we walked around:





Hollywood wanted to get a good feel for a place in Italy instead of hopping from city to city, so we stayed in Rome for most of the trip and then ended our holiday with a trip to the beach in a tiny little picturesque town of Sperlonga. I'll write a post that has more details about the beach.

Someday I would like to see the other great places in Italy. Florence, Venice, Naples, The Cinque Terre, etc. Rome, though, was amazing. I can't even describe how fabulous it was, but hopefully some of these photos will help. Such a unique city. Tomorrow I'll write about the places we saw.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Graduation: the Party Decorations

The graduation party was a great success.  We held it at our house, which was a total rookie mistake. I'm pretty sure that for the rest of the kids, I'll be renting a venue and having the party somewhere else. It was chaos trying to get the house in order while preparing for an overseas trip, taking care of four kids, working a million hours, etc. etc. How I managed not to have a nervous breakdown is still a mystery.

I love doing crafty fun things, and thoroughly enjoyed making the decorations for the shin-dig. Hollywood chose a color scheme of tangerine and turquoise, and from there I kind of went crazy. Here are some of the things I did:

Streamers made out of cheap plastic tablecloths, idea, courtesy of Pinterest:

I did a lot with those tiny clothespins. This "Congratulations" banner was fun:

I wanted to put up a lot of her artwork from over the years, so I created this 'Masterpieces' wall. Another idea I got from Pinterest: (yes, she really did create those pictures - aren't they amazing?!)

Not all of her artwork could be hung that way, so we placed some throughout the house:

Along the tops of the walls, I hung photographs from ribbon with little clothespins:

And then, of course, we had the photo collages that Hollywood created for her friends. I made the Wisconsin one:

The rest of the house had fun decorations too. Above the fireplace:

The guest sign-in table where we used the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" as the guestbook:

I made some cute little cutouts and taped them to skewers to decorate the cupcakes:

And finally, an old window painted with chalkboard paint. This was the perfect thing to write her name on:

There were more, but this covers the basics. It was a ton of fun, but quite a bit of work. Don't be surprised if one of the colors of Goblin's first birthday party theme is turquoise or orange. :)