Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dealing with the chill

So we're Illinoisans now and all so we're experiencing Autumn for the first time ever and it's quite a bit chillier than the type of fall we're used to. I haven't seen a temperature above 46 degrees in over a week and for the past few mornings have had to scrape ice off the car before being able to drive to the train station to drop off Chris. Don't take that as a complaint ~ indeed, the scraping off of ice from the car is a chore that is fought over in our house due to how new an quaint it is to get to (have to) scrape ice off a windshield before driving. What fun! What a new and interesting task to have to accomplish each morning before driving one's car.

We anticipate that we will have our first snow before the month is up. I'm so nervous. Will I be able to drive in it? Who decides if it's "too much snow" to go into work or be driving on the roads? And how do we find out? Do they say so on the tv? I'm not sure at all because I never watch tv.  I mean, as I understand it, people here go to work regardless of the snow. That never happens in Texas. If it snows or is icy on the roads, everything is shut down. So here, when it snows, I'm meant to behave as if all is normal and fine and take Chris to the train and make sure Colin gets on his bus just like always. I think.

Chelsea told us that she didn't notice the ice on her windshield when she first got to her car after work late one night. She gets off at 10pm and has quite a drive home. She said she got in her car and "noticed that her window was fogged up" so, like any Texan, she flipped on her windshield wipers which didn't do anything but scrape across the windshield. So she squirted water from her windshield wiper fluids onto her windshield to attempt to clear it but the water turned to ice and formed a new layer making it thicker than before.  This is when it dawned on her that it was not fog, but indeed, it was ice. And she turned on her defrost and waited. That's the modus operandi. Patience.

This winter I will learn to knit socks. I'm practically ready right now and will very likely be taking up the needles today to begin my first pair. I want to do the "two at once" method in order to get both finished at the same time and in the hopes that they turn out pretty similar if not matching. I'm learning the "toe-up" method. I don't have a long circular needle though so I'm going to attempt it on DPNs. Wishing for all the luck in the world!

In other news, I just got a new Pampered Chef catalog from one of my neighbors who sells Pampered Chef stuff! Yay! I want everything!! Just need a job and some money and all that is in this catalog can be mine.

I had a phone interview last week and I'm hoping for a face-to-face interview to follow it up. I felt like the questions were worded in such a way that I had to offer more explanation than answer and I don't like tripping over my words as much as that. I like things to be more conversational. Here's hoping for a second chance.

Off to prepare for our election day party tonight - family only, baked goods and soda pop! You can't beat that!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Post for the Hell of it

Ah neglected blog, so sorry to not have kept you in a while.

The weather here has turned gorgeous - lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s but this weekend when we will be in Clear Lake for a wedding at Butler's Courtyard it will be between 30 - 40 degrees here in Chicago and we will STILL be experiencing the 50 - 70 temps in Houston.

The tree in our back yard has lost all it's leaves and revealed the location of all it's bird's nests. It's actually quite charming. I hope the birds come back to these same nests in the spring and they don't have problems with squatter birds claiming already built nests.

Chris found a Half Price Books and I got books on making mosaics, knitting socks, and baking breads. Too many projects swimming in my head and not enough time to realize all of them.

I began applying for jobs today in earnest. I mean, full-time jobs. There's nothing part-time worth part of my time here in the suburbs of Chicago. Unfortunately. Because I was having a fabulous time as a housewife but I don't have any money and that is no fun. I just want to go to my sister's beach house party and I can't even get $150 to her for my part of the party. ~ sigh.

I'm looking forward to being employed again but it will mean drastic changes to our lives. No more taking Chris to the train in the mornings. Instead I'll be taking myself to the train and getting on it and he will probably take himself to the train because he leaves work every day at 4pm and I won't be able to leave til 5pm or later just to get some work done. I used to leave around 6pm usually when I had a job. No more full load of all the household chores - all the laundry, all the dishes, all the cooking, all the vacuuming and sweeping and mopping and dusting and cleaning toilets. I think everyone should be responsible for their own laundry anyway. I know several people who run their houses like that with younger children too! Heck, I was doing laundry way younger than Colin and he's the youngest person in the house. There's no reason in the world that he should be sitting around playing games waiting for someone else to wash and fold his laundry - or anyone else in the house either. We're all grown people.

I think it will be fun to work downtown. I anticipate learning a lot about the city of Chicago and meeting a lot of great new people and being able to shop again!

My book club finished reading Jane Eyre which I hadn't read since junior high and it was great! I miss Mr. Rochester and Jane and all the drama going on between them. :) Next is The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I feel like I've read this book before but I can't remember. I also thought I had it already but I have a different Cisneros volume or maybe I just can find it due to the move. There are lots of books in a jumbled order.

Time to run to the station!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More great Illinois experiences

This past weekend, Chris and I took another drive ~ this time we headed south, a direction we had not yet traveled. I wanted to go to St. Charles to a yarn shop there called Wool Company and Chris found a disc golf course we could play near there in Geneva, IL. The drive was, again, just stunning! The trees are coming out in even MORE brilliant hues of yellow, gold, copper, amber, red, maroon, purple, orange, rust, peach, and lime-green. I really just don't have the words to describe it. I keep thinking that someone (my mother in law, my sister, my friends back in Texas) HAS to come visit so they can see it like this. But then the next week I think, 'No, NOW they need to see it like this!' But it keeps changing every day. Chris described it as a super slow motion fireworks display where you only get to see one frame of the video every day. Each tree seems to be showing off it's own personality or colors in a different way and it's utterly amazing.

I remember going to the International Quilt Festival and just being complete exhausted from the sheer awe I felt standing in front of each quilt. It's hard to be completely amazed over and over and over and over again. It becomes overstimulating. My brain has to take the time to catch up. At the IQF I would stand in front of a quilt with my mouth hanging open in just complete rapture and think it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen; and then I would take a few steps to the left and stand in front of a different quilt and have the same rapture, the same amazement, the same awe all over again. How many times can you be blown-over by beauty before you shut down, or start skipping over the details or lose interest just so you can think. That is the way autumn in Illinois feels to me. I feel as if I can barely take in any further beauty, any more shocking in-take of breath at the grandeur of tree-lined streets blanketed with colorful leaves fallen from the trees. This has been so far my favorite of the seasons. I mean, I've only been here for summer and now the beginning of fall but I've never seen anything like it before in my life.

So we're driving through all these glorious trees shining in the sunlight and encountered what appeared to be a nature preserve of some kind and had to turn around and drive back though the gorgeousness to turn into the park and discovered it was a fen. I learned something new because I had never heard of a fen before.  But it is a low land area which frequently floods due to it's proximity to water but which does not permanently retain water. Thus the plant life is very different than on dry land and there are few trees or woody plants. This particular fen was maintained by friends of the fen and had a very pleasant boardwalk through the fen out to the near-by body of water which was the Fox River. There was a nice deck area at the end of the boardwalk to stand over the Fox River and it was beautiful!!! And freezing cold. I wouldn't mind going there again during the various seasons to see how it looks in different weathers and take the kids there.

St. Charles, IL was having a harvest festival complete with ferris wheel and amusement rides and bands, with police directing throngs of traffic and people EVERYWHERE!!!! Needless to say, there was no way that I could get to the yarn shop I wanted to see due to the madness of the festival. We pressed on to Geneva where we found a bakery shop that sold the most delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies I've ever tasted in my life.

The disc golf course in Geneva, Wheeler Park, was lovely. There was the usual gorgeous colorful trees that I could go on describing over and over again but that would eventually bore you and you would ask me to stop talking about the trees. But they were beautifully displaying all their reds and peachy colors and oranges and yellows like the trees here do. It was freezing cold like playing disc golf in December or January back in Texas. However, there was one thing that was glaringly different than most of my previous disc golfing experiences in Illinois - the course was crowded. Crowded like Jack Brooks Park on a Sunday any time of year. Groups of people playing and waiting in line at the tee-boxes to throw. You could see them all over the whole park and you had to keep moving lest they pass you up. And I thought to myself, why on earth are SO many people out playing disc golf in 40 degrees and my nose frozen and red and runny, when all throughout August and most of September when there were the most perfect days on earth for being outdoors and walking through the park on a cool, breezy, 80 degree summer day, the parks were empty? My theory is that it was "too hot" for these Illinoisans in 80 degrees; but too cold for this Texan in 40 degrees.  Most other folks seemed to not be concerned with the temperature at all. Let me tell the Illinoisans reading - 80 with a nice breeze is heaven!!! I've played rounds where it was 104 degrees with 100% humidity and it felt like my brain was melting. Normally I would drink a whole big gatoraid in the front nine on a summer day in Texas whereas I've found I can bring a small bottle of water or gatoraid to fit in my disc golf bag and still have a drink remaining at the end of 18 holes here.

This temperature thing is something I'm definitely going to have to get more used to. I can see myself already acclimating though. For instance, just yesterday, after picking Chris up from the train station we took a short drive through the Deer Grove Nature Preserve because it's just jaw-droppingly beautiful with a thick carpet of fallen leaves and color everywhere you look. My eyes are just gorging themselves on the visual treats that the trees offer. Anyway, it was 56 degrees outside and we were driving along with the windows down discussing what a fine temperature 56 degrees is. We used to bundle up and wear jackets in 56 degrees but no, not anymore. Not when that morning it was 27 degrees. We started having fires in our fireplace when it was 48 degrees. Not now. Now we save them for nights when it gets into the 30s.

So bring on the winter! I'm looking forward to the snow. I'm looking forward to how brutal it is. Last night I met my neighbor who lives across the vast park between our houses and she seems really interesting! I can't wait to chat with her again. She apparently LOVES the cold and the snow. And to underscore that she came over to the book club in flip flops and a denim jacket not even buttoned up over a thin top and leggings. I was in long sleeves, jeans, socks and shoes, and my NaNoWriMo hoodie. But I will probably start shedding the layers in the spring when 40 will feel like disc golf playing weather after surviving the temperatures in the teens or single digits all winter.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Niagra Falls Trip

The weekend immediately following our anniversary my husband surprised me with an overnight trip to Niagra Falls in upstate New York. It was stunningly beautiful! We arrived in Rochester and drove through the countryside along the coast of Lake Ontario to see the lovely fall foliage changing from green to brilliance. We played 18 holes of disc golf at Shore Winds Disc Golf Course which is probably the most beautiful course I've ever played right on the lake. We went to the American Falls that evening and took pictures from the tower deck and then ate at the Niagra Hardrock Cafe and then stayed at a great airbnb place nearby. The next day we went to Niagra State Park to see the Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls off the Canadian boarder. It was stunning! We walked through the "Cave of the Winds" which is not actually a cave but a walkway under the falls and got soaking wet and then had a picnic lunch at Fort Niagra on Ontario before driving back to Rochester for our flight home. Here are some pictures:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Welcome Fall!

Today is our third wedding anniversary and it has been a most awesome three years. And some of the best parts of it have been this year in particular as we took what we thought was a huge risk to pull up our roots and I feared to quit working a stable job so that we could move to Illinois. However, on this happiest of days, as I plan to celebrate with the love of my life the wonders of the last three years, I can barely stop grinning thinking about how absolutely wonderful everything in my life right now is and about how great Illinois has been. It helps that today is an absolutely gorgeous day with blue skies and the trees all turning vibrant fall colors the like of which I have never seen before. In movies and pictures, yes; but never in real life. The oranges and yellows and even purples and browns and reds peek between the greenery in the most amazing display of color I've ever seen. I'm amazed. I'm impressed. I'm blown away. I wish I were a painter and could capture these colors on canvas!

I'm really happy right now. Super super happy and content with my life. I love being Chris's wife! I love that we moved to Illinois! I love this house and this neighborhood and how happy my step-son Colin is since we moved. It's like a cloud over him just lifted! He has friends and activities and runs around the neighborhood and yard with nerf guns and swords or plays basketball in the driveways and rides his bike! He is excited about school and learning great things and having to try harder and getting a great education! He seems so grounded and happy and smiles all the time and jokes around with Chelsea almost continuously. It's been really incredible for him too. For all of us! Chris loves the disc golf courses and the great weather for playing disc golf all summer long. He likes riding the train to work so that he can get work done while commuting. I love not working and keeping house and making homemade dinners and that I'm a new part of the book club on the street. I love my new knitting group and our new doctor and our new grocery stores and just everything.

I certainly do not mean to "dis" Texas because I really loved it there too. I loved my life and had a lot of pride in Texas and being Texan. As do most people from Texas. In Texas, it's common to hear people say prideful things like Texas is the greatest state in the nation and everything's bigger and better in Texas. It was one of the reasons I was so scared to leave. However, since moving here and living here (tho I have yet to experience the "brutal" winters) I have realized that my Texas pride was blind pride. I had never lived anywhere else so I had no basis for comparison. I just can't possibly explain how incredible every experience from going to the doctor, to getting our drivers' licenses, to playing disc golf courses, to shopping for anything, to having my hair done, to going out, to commuting, to the SCHOOLS!!!, to the job opportunities (I'm keeping my eye on jobs but not really applying yet), to the parks, to the weather, just you-name-it ~ It's a fabulous unbelievable experience unlike anything I'm used to in Texas. People are SO friendly! People in Texas are friendly too but not to this extent and certainly not while driving on the roads - people here will let you in in front of them and aren't assholes behind the wheel. Our neighbors are all so neighborly and friendly. My knitting group is so welcoming of new-comers and full of such nice friendly personable people. I know I'm gushing but today I'm brimming over with love and it has to go somewhere.

I hope all married people experience this much joy in their relationships and I hope anyone interested in getting married finds this happiness too.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Increasing happiness

Monday morning and back to the routines of life - work and school for Chris and Colin. A job interview for Chelsea that we are all hoping she gets. Piles of laundry for me and vacuuming and collecting dishes from around the house and getting ready for visitors next weekend. I really really enjoy not having a job to report to but there is also a lot of housework to do! I do feel like we have a nicer kept house than we used to in the past. That is definitely for sure.

We will eat in every day this week in anticipation of my mother and father in-law coming on Thursday, so I'm planning a menu for the week. We are really looking forward to their visit. I'm not one of those people who don't like my in-laws - in fact, I love them! They are an amazing, thoughtful, wonderful couple whose relationship and values Chris and I attempt to emulate every day.

And so they will be our second visitors from Houston. My brother Kevin spent one Sunday with us previously but we really didn't know where to take him or what to do with just one day. This weekend we have a LOT of ideas including going into Chicago and seeing museums or the aquarium and riding the train and taking a boat tour on Lake Michigan. My mother in law wants to see a Great Lake. We have ideas of various restaurants we want to take them to and new experiences we plan to share with them. There is so much that this area has to offer that it's almost impossible to decide what to show them next! The amazing parks, the excellent restaurants, the city, the museums, the putt putt courses, the disc golf courses, the nature centers and forest preserves. It's really rather overwhelming.

Friday, Colin is off of school and will be taking a game design class for free at the public library. They may want to see the Schaumburg Library which is incomparable to any library I've ever seen. Houston's Downtown public library is huge, large collection of books and highly regarded for research, however, for a public library the one in Schaumburg is beyond cool. Their media room is as large as their children's books area and nearly as large as their fiction area. They have a theater where we have attended a lecture on how cinema portrays the aged running through a large selection of movie clips. They have this lecture every first Thursday. They have isles of sheet music and records and video tapes and DVD's to check out. It's fairly incredible. Their children's section has multiple sections grouped and decorated by age group with the chairs and tables gradually growing larger. They are currently building a new teen section of the library and they also have more computer stations than I've ever seen in any library before. In fact, probably more computer stations than some of the larger labs at the University of Houston where I used to work.

Chris and I spent the weekend together fairly alone with the kids both in Houston and we had a fabulous time. We don't yet know anyone else but are perfectly happy to enjoy a thousand new little experiences a day with each other. I'm not sure there would be anyone else with whom I could so thoroughly enjoy a simple drive through a new area remarking on it's quaintness. Every little town and road through the area is so quaint that I've actually sort of recalibrated my quaintness meter.

On Friday night after dropping the kids off at their flight, on a lark we decided to check out downtown Palatine for restaurants and bars. We ran into Octoberfest! Who knew it would be going on in September? We had an absolute blast! So much fun! So much polka! So much bier!

That's all for now. Next time I'll tell you all about Casino Night!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Our Visit Back to Houston

This past Memorial Day weekend, Chris and I went back to Houston for three days during which we attended a rehearsal dinner and wedding, organized a brunch with friends, played a new disc golf course in Conroe with disc golf friends, and attended a Memorial Day back yard barbecue with dozens of friends and musical folks in League City. We also took a swim in Chris's parents' pool and ate Mexican food and had multiple margaritas! It was a deliciously fun and busy weekend full of great friends and good times compacted into just a short period of time.

My thoughts on the trip about Houston in general are thus:

1. It was damn hot! I mean sweat oozing from your every pore and running down your face / neck / legs / chest / back, etc., dripping onto your clothes, soaking your shirt kind of hot, with 98% humidity. I haven't sweat like that since leaving Texas and almost forgot what it was like. I believe I was near heat-stroke on Sunday morning playing disc golf at Little Egypt in Conroe. Our car said it was 104 degrees when we got back into it. I was having cold sweats and my brain had pretty much stopped making decisions. I was sunburned on all the areas of my skin that were showing. It exhausted and drained me. When we returned from playing disc golf, we decided to jump in the pool. That was very refreshing but also tiring.  We then took a nap for about an hour.

We could have slept till morning but we had a party to get to. Jumping ahead to Monday, we caught a super early flight and slept the whole flight back to Chicago and went right to bed upon our return that morning for a five hour nap. Today is Wednesday and I still feel tired from the trip. I didn't make dinner last night for lack of energy - we went out for dinner which saved us from frozen pizza.

2. Weddings are the most fun! I love weddings! I especially love weddings where Chris is the officiant marrying two people I know and love and for whom I hope all happiness and good things. There is nothing so great as witnessing someone you know finding love and declaring it in front of all their friends and families. And Chris does a fabulous ceremony! Carl and Chanel's wedding was the wedding of a life-time! Attention to EVERY detail! They had it all! The kick-ass dress! The coordinated mothers outfits - mom of the bride wore pink, mom of the groom wore green to match the colors throughout - pink and green were everywhere! Pink & green pillows in the lounge, pink & green M&M's as a give-away, pink bridesmaids' dresses, green groomsmen vests & bowties. Pink and green flowers spilling from every available vase and location. pink rose petals to throw at the couple as they made their way to the limo waiting to take them to their honeymoon suite. A large portrait of the bride near the bar. Open bar - all you could drink. Delicious food from steaks to seafood, roasted vegetables, scalloped potatoes, salads and rolls. A photobooth complete with costume trunk for dressing up your photoshoot, music and dancing and photographers recording everything. It was grand. Everything about the whole wedding was absolutely grand.

Weddings also always make me reflect on my own wedding! What a fabulous party! I loved my wedding so much! There's no way you can ever recreate the happiness you feel on your wedding day. You simply cannot stop smiling no matter what you do! All your friends and family are surrounding you and wishing you well, participating in your union and in the love you feel for each other. And while during my wedding we may have been barefoot on the beach and had no photographer or coordinator or caterer or personalized M&Ms we had the best darn beach party you can possibly have! We felt the love from all our guests and ate and drank til our bellies were as full as our hearts.

3. I really miss having friends, and Mama Tried and going out to hear local live music. We need to get back into having a social life. I know it took a long time to develop our social life in Clear Lake to the point where it was as rich as it was (and still is to some extent.) And I believe that a lot of it had to do with disc golf. It was years of playing disc golf with some of the guys out playing before being invited to people's houses or inviting others over to ours but we made it there. The same with my knitting / crochet friends. I dragged Chelsea with me to the yarn convention - Stitches Midwest because I don't know any crafty people here. I don't think anyone could ever replace the people in Clear Lake in my heart but they are in Texas and I am in Illinois and I want friends and activities here the same way I had them in Texas.

Over the course of the weekend I saw and had conversations with at least 40 people I know and love ~ mainly due to the fact that there was a wedding and a huge backyard barbeque going on and everyone was already gathered at these two events. Except for brunch on Saturday morning and disc golf on Sunday morning where we saw some friends who weren't at either event. And there were at least a dozen or more people I did not have a chance to see who I would love to see again - mainly my family members - I didn't get a chance to see my lovely sister or any of my other siblings or my mom, or Chris's family, I didn't get a chance to see my knitting / crocheting friends or Toni who I haven't seen in many months.

Finding people whose company you enjoy is often so difficult. It's like dating to some extent - first you have to put yourself out there by going out and doing things and meeting new people which is scary and hard to do. Then you might meet others but so often they are sort of "not your type" or they are crazy or weird or offensive in some way (chauvinistic, small minded, republican, racist, homophobic, party too hard or into heavy drug usage, gamer hermit types who just sit and watch tv or play video games for entertainment, overly religious types, etc.) It takes hours of conversations and multiple outings / events / meetings to determine if you are a "match" for a friendship to develop. It's daunting! But I have to do it if I want to attempt to emulate my old social life.

I should start with my neighbors. I should invite them over for tea or we should have a barbeque in the back yard with frisbee and plenty of beers! I'm going to set a date and make invitations!