Monday, March 29, 2010

The New Fence!

Our new fence is complete and we are thrilled!  It was a rough few days having to manage three dogs without use of the backyard, but we're glad we did it.  It also made us a tad bit insecure not having a fence for a while, especially when our motion sensor lights kept going off overnight and keeping us awake and paranoid!  Since we extended the fence line up to the front of the house, the dogs have a little more room to play.  But, we added a concrete footer and kickboard on the new fence, so they can't dig out anymore!  Sorry doggles!


The fence is 6' board-on-board clear cedar, capped on the top.  With the footer, kickboard, and capping, the actual height is closer to 7', which means more privacy.  The two new gates have ornate headers with some neat detailing.

 
















They added detail woodwork and arches to the section of the fence by the front of the house that faces out to the street.  I think it's a really nice touch!

We had the metal posts facing the alley enclosed with wood and matching headers installed on them to complete the look.
I'm very, very happy with the results and think it was money well spent!  If you need a new fence in the DFW area and have any questions about our builder, Cisco Fencing, let me know!     

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Ewert Wedding

We had a great weekend celebrating the nuptials of our friends, Justin and Stari.  Their wedding and reception were held at Off the Grid in Dallas.  The ceremony was held on the second floor of the building, with the reception following on the bottom floor.  Stari's brother started off the occasion with a quote from the movie, Love Actually:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.  

What a neat way to start a wedding!  Halfway through the ceremony, a musician sang Con Te Partiro.  Jer and I love that song, and it was so cool to hear someone sing it live.  The reception was amazing too, and I think Justin and Stari had a wonderful time.  Who doesn't love a Rubiks Cube cake??
 "All because two people fell in love"

I think it's awesome how Justin and Stari really did their wedding THEIR way.  I loved every part of it and I hope they can always look back on it with fond memories.  Best wishes, guys!  We love you!

 The newlyweds share their first dance

The beautiful bride and I

The groom with a lot of old friends

 Sharon, me, and Rachel pose on the outdoor patio

The hubby and I

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm Old Enough to Die

You're probably thinking that's a weird blog title.  Let me explain.  My 91 year old Oma (grandmother) spoke those words to me the other day when I was talking to her on the phone.  I had called her a couple of times to set up a lunch date, but her phone just rang and rang.  I got concerned and called my mom, but she informed me that Oma's phone hadn't been working for a while and they were trying to get it fixed.  Apparently they set up some sort of life-alert system for her so that if she ever fell or became unable to reach the phone to call for help, she could activate something on a bracelet that would dial for help.  It involved attaching something to her phone, which inadvertently led to the switch on the breaker being flipped and leaving her without phone service until someone figured that out.  Once that issue was cleared up, I called Oma back and our conversation included talk about the source of her phone problems.  I'm paraphrasing but she basically said that my dad (quote: "Oh, YOUR father") was worried about her ever needing help, so he set her up with that life alert system, which she thinks is silly.  She proceeded to tell me that she can't think of a scenario where she wouldn't be able to get to the phone to call for help, and even if one did emerge, she's "old enough to die."  (ass-sphincter-says-what?)  She further explained that I'm still young and have a lot of years left, but she's not and is therefore old enough to die.  It was heartbreaking for me to hear, but at the same time it was also an incredibly honest, rational statement for her to make.  There might be times where she momentarily lapses and calls me by my sister's name or forgets dates, but she's still very aware of what she's accomplished and experienced in life, and she isn't afraid of death.  I hope if I make it to her age, I'm similarly at peace with my life and realistic in my understanding and therefore, acceptance, of mortality.   

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dang, I can't turn down a challenge

This past weekend my nephew, Mark, and his girlfriend, Sarah, accomplished a pretty amazing task.  They ran their first marathon together and finished it in just over 4 hours.  I'm seriously impressed.  Mark sent me his race results (shown below), along with this comment: "Janet, it's time to bump up that 5K to a 42.1K."  Oh snap!   Someone just threw down a challenge.  I'm a tad bit competitive, so it's not going to be easy to ignore this.  In no way am I in as good a shape as those two are, but I think I can get there over time.  I've definitely seen improvements in my endurance over the past year.  Last night I asked Jer to run outside with me, and we mapped out a 5K in the neighborhood.  Our path even included two long, steep hills.  We finished it together without stopping, and it really wasn't that difficult.  Granted, this is only 1/8 of a marathon, but it gives me a lot of hope for what I can achieve with dedicated training.  If the weather will cooperate, I hope to run this path consistently in the coming months and gradually increase the distance.  I've already got the Warrior Dash on the calendar for May (3.51 miles w/obstacles) and the Komen 5K in June, so hopefully I can put a 10K or a half-marathon on my agenda for later this year.  I know I've got Jer's support and he'll be running by my side, so this is definitely an achievable goal.  In related news, my weight loss total has reached 6 pounds, so that's encouraging.  Gotta keep truckin!        


Congratulations, you two!  You should be very proud.  We all are!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Europe Trip Update

We've made lots of progress on our Europe plans!  We thought it would be hard to make decisions on where to stay and go this far in advance, but in reality this trip will be here before we know it.  The more research that Jer and I do, the more excited we're getting!  We've picked our hotel in London, and it's the Plaza on the River Club and Residence.  It's a 5-star hotel located on the River Thames, from which we'll get great views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.  It looks pretty neat!  We still haven't figured out how we're going to get tickets to Wimbledon, but I'm working on that....

Originally I thought Rome would be our second destination, but we are opting for Monte Carlo instead!  We'll fly into Nice, Paris, and then take the rail over to Monte Carlo, Monaco.  The entire country of Monaco is only .7 square miles, which is hard to believe.  It lies in the French Riviera, on the Mediterranean Sea.  It's known for its glitz, glamour, and gambling!  We're especially excited about this leg of our trip because it's the one we are splurging on the most, as far as accommodations are concerned.  We picked a spectacular hotel with its own private beach, Le Meridien Beach Plaza.  Our room will have a seaview from its private balcony.  Hopefully I'll be spending more time on the beach than in the famous casinos, but I make no promises.

From there, we'll head to a little-known city, I'm not sure if you've ever heard of it - PARIS.  haha.  I'm a tad bit excited.  I've heard so many wonderful things about this city, and I can't believe I'm actually going to visit it.  My friend, Iris, is having an amazing time there, as I speak.  For our stay there, we picked a hotel very close to the Eiffel Tower, called Hotel Eiffel Seine.  It looks to be designed and decorated in a really funky motif, which I think I'll really like.  I don't think we'll have a fancy schmancy view from this room, but that's okay.  I don't plan on spending much time at the hotel anyway!  It's not far from the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, whose name I've heard about a million times since Jer is a Tour de France enthusiast.  (The last stage of the Tour is the Champs-Elysees stage, and the awards ceremony takes place there).  It's semi-sad that we won't actually get to see a Tour stage, but just being in France while it's going on should be exciting.

After Paris, we'll head to Amsterdam and then Maastricht.  I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to see my father's hometown.  I actually feel rather guilty that it's taken me 27 years to get there.  I'm getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about going.  My family's history in Holland, and their journey to America, is truly an incredible story.  I wrote a little about it back in 2008, here.  Our exchange student Kim's aunt and her family live in Geleen, which is not far from Maastricht, so we'll meet up with them at this point.  Then we'll make our way to Bergheim, outside of Cologne, Germany, to visit Kim and her family!  I feel like we've already met them for as much as we've corresponded and conversed, but this will be the first time in person.  Kim has a wonderful family and I look forward to staying with them for a couple days.  After that, it's back to America.  :( 

Throughout this planning, there are a few questions that have popped up that are kind of irking me!
1. What the heck do I do with 3 dogs for 18 days?
2. How do I pack for a trip this long?
3. Am I prepared to visit a topless/nude beach?
4. Will two memory cards be enough for my camera?
5. Is it going to be super awkward going through the full-body scanners at Heathrow?
6. Will I decide to stay in Europe indefinitely after seeing its awesomeness?
7. Will I have any money left after this trip?       
        

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Quarter 2010 Selection

This quarter I've decided to primarily support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  More specifically, I'm supporting two good friends who are walking in the 3-day in honor of their mom, Dianne, who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer.  The event involves walking 60 miles over 3 days and raising $2300.  That's right - EACH participant is required to raise $2300.  That's no small feat and considering these girls are sisters, they know a lot of the same people.  It won't be easy to raise that much money when they're soliciting from an overlapping donation pool, but this cause is too important not to try.  I am so proud of Sarah and Becca for going on this journey, and I am honored to play a tiny role in helping them reach their goal.

Last Fall I was a cheerleader for the walkers when their route passed in front of my sister's house on the 2nd day.  I also was a volunteer on the 3rd day as they approached the final pit stop.  Even though I only got a small taste of the event, I knew those walkers were doing something special.  They were pushing their bodies to the limits because this disease touches everybody and it needs to be stopped.  I can't wait until I or my mom or my own sisters get breast cancer before I decide to do something.

If you've got $5 or $10 or $20 to spare, please consider donating.  You can even set up a payment plan to spread out your donation over 4 months so your budget won't experience a noticeable hit.  I know Sarah and Becca would appreciate anything you could give.  To visit their team page, please click here.  You can do it, ladies!  

 The Brave Fighter
Sarah and Becca

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eleven Years Ago Today

Eleven years ago today, I witnessed something amazing.  I was in the delivery room for the birth of my nephew, Michael.  I was only 15 at the time, but I grasped the magnitude of the experience, and it's one that I'll never forget.  I will forever be grateful to my sister Jill for allowing me to be a part of that.  I remember looking at her during labor and seeing tears running down her cheeks.  I started to cry too and someone asked me why.  I said it was because I thought Jill was in so much pain and it made me hurt for her.  She looked at me and assured me that she wasn't crying because of pain....she was overwhelmingly happy at what was about to take place and those were tears of joy.  It's hard to describe how I felt in the moments that followed.  Seeing Michael enter this world after the culmination of months of growth and development and a million things that needed to occur just perfectly, was breathtaking.  I could truly see why it brought tears of joy to Jill's eyes.   

My mother-in-law and I were discussing this subject last weekend, since she was recently able to witness the birth of her newest grandson.  She had four children herself, but this was the first time she was on the other end of the situation!  It brought tears to her eyes just speaking about it, and I completely understood.  She had trouble finding the words to describe why it affected her so much, and I completely understood.  We tried to explain to Jer what it was like, but I know we fell short of doing it justice.  It's really something that has to be experienced first-hand.  Considering childbirth is a very emotional, vulnerable, and personal process, I can see why some women only want their husbands there in the room.  But after having witnessed a birth, and knowing how much joy it brought me, I think I want to share that with others too.  Of course this is me saying this now, with no bun in the oven, but I hope I still feel the same way when the time comes.  I hope I'm comfortable with letting my close family members be a part of it.

I can't believe it's been eleven years since that day.  Michael has always been "Mikey" to me, but pretty soon I probably can't call him that anymore!  He's always been smart, courteous, athletic, and loving.  I am very, very excited at what the future holds for him.  I get the feeling it might include something baseball-related in it, but that's just a guess......HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!
 2001
2004
2006
2007
Mikey and Joe with Josh Hamilton - 2009

    

Monday, March 15, 2010

Welcome to the World!

Jer and I were thrilled to travel to Amarillo this past weekend to meet our new nephew.  I even woke up at 4:30am on Saturday morning to accomplish this feat, so that should tell you how important it was to us!  (In other words, I am NOT a morning person).  The new parents, Michal-ann and Cary, adore their little bundle of joy, even if he doesn't let them sleep very much right now.  :)  KC is beautiful, of course, and we were so glad we got to spend a little time with him.
 


Jer and I offered to make a Target run for Michal-ann and Cary since they have their hands full, which resulted in a comical 20 minutes spent in the breastfeeding aisle trying to figure out if we were getting the right things off the shopping list.  Why do they sell storage bottles separately that can double as feeding bottles, extra nipples separately to use with those bottles, but not the collars separately that are also necessary to use them???  Yeah, it's a mystery.  After returning from our trek, we spent a while longer with KC, but left so the new little family could have some time together.


On Sunday we were lucky enough to spend time with KC again during a family lunch at my mother-in-law's house.  He seemed pretty tuckered out from all the activity over the past few days, and spent most of the time sleeping in his Aunt Felicia's arms.

      
Jer took a turn holding KC, which I definitely felt needed to be captured on film.  I look forward to the day when he holds his own child in his arms for the first time, but I digress.  Little KC is lucky enough to have a lot of aunts and uncles (and grandparents!) ready and willing to spoil him!  He has already brought so much joy into everyone's lives, in the short 6 days that he's been on this earth. 

 
 While we may be 350 miles away, we'll never be far.  Happy birthday, KC.  We'll see you soon.

 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taco Salad Thursday

You're not allowed to laugh at this, but Jer and I have a little tradition called Taco Salad Thursday, or TST for short.  There used to be a cafe in my office building that would serve these delicious taco salads, but only one day a week.  When my friend Kari used to work with me, we would head down to the cafe on Thursdays, grab our taco salads, and eat together in the Galley.  Kari has since left my company to take care of her little munchkin, and the cafe has closed due to the loss of a big tenant in my building.  I was pretty bummed about that until I realized that Jer has the same cafe in his office building!    He works only 2 miles away from me, so it's pretty easy for us to have lunch dates.  Most Thursdays I get an IM from him about 11am that says, "TST?"  It always makes me smile.  It's nice to get a break from the office some days, and it's even nicer when that break includes time with my hubby.  I think it's cool that we have this standing lunch date every week.  No, it's not on my diet plan, but I'd rather spend time with Jer than save a few calories!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Two Peas in a Pod

The hubby and I were watching SNL's The Best of Will Ferrell DVD over the weekend and cracking up constantly.  Since it is just a compilation of sketches from the live show, the audience laughter and reactions can be heard on the DVD.  We were watching one sketch where he's imitating Robert Goulet, and at one point he yells out, "Nature!  Goulet."  Jer and I died laughing, and then realized that no one in the audience had laughed at that, or at least not loud enough to be captured on the recording.  That made it even funnier that we simultaneously laughed at something that apparently other folks wouldn't find funny.  I think that pretty much sums up our relationship.  We might march to the beat of a different drummer than the rest of you, but at least the two of us are marching to the same beat.  I can't imagine having more in common with someone than I do with Jer.  He's my perfect complement.       

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I told you so! I told you so!

Today was a BEAUTIFUL day, which reminded me how much I love spring and summer.  If I can wear capris, short sleeves, and flip flops, I'm a happy girl.  But I digress.  The real reason I'm writing is because Jer just started streaming The Cable Guy on Netflix, and it reminded me of a funny story.  Having grown up in Dallas, I had been to Medieval Times as a child.  It seems to be a place for schools or community groups to bring kids on field trips, or as an outing for families with small kids.  I remember it being mildly entertaining, but nothing I'd care to make a second visit to.  Since Jer grew up in Amarillo, he had no idea what Medieval Times was until he watched The Cable Guy.  In that movie, it makes it out to be a pretty fun place with lots of yummy food, fighting knights, and exciting competitions.

A couple years ago Jer and I attended an event that featured a silent auction.  We were perusing the items up for bid, when Jer noticed two tickets to Medieval Times.  They usually go for $60 apiece, but I think the highest bid was only $40 or so.  He said, "Oh!  We should totally bid on that.  I think that place is really cool!"  I was like, "Umm, no.  That place is for kids, and it's not that cool."  He didn't believe me, because he had seen The Cable Guy and it looked pretty sweet on there.  I tried to tell him that I had been there before, and it really wasn't going to impress a 25 year old guy.  Jer wouldn't take my word for it, and we ended up bidding on and winning the tickets.  Great.  So we get home and I throw the tickets in a drawer, figuring he'll forget about them.  A few months go by and he stumbles across the tickets and realizes they're about to expire.  I try again to tell him that his expectations are probably WAY too high, but he thinks I'm exaggerating. 

So we attend a performance and it goes as I expected.  We're surrounded by kids, the food is gross, the storyline is super cheesy, and the fighting is not even close to believable.  Halfway through Jer leans over and says, "They normally charge $60 each for THIS?"  Yeah.  I told you so!  I told you so!  At least he admitted I was right.  Those two hours were pretty unbearable, but we can joke about it now.  The good thing that came from that experience is that whenever Jer mentions something that I know isn't fun, all I have to say is "Medieval Times" and he gets the picture.  

Making Things Happen

Well, it's been an eventful couple of days around our household!  We met with three different fence contractors and signed a contract with the one we liked best.  Work should begin in a couple of weeks.  Here's hoping for good weather so the job only takes a couple of days!  I'm very much looking forward to getting a new fence, and getting a bigger backyard in the process.  We have a large front and side yard area that we don't really use, so we're going to extend the fence up closer to the front of the house to claim some of that space for the backyard.  Our dogs should appreciate that! 

We also began the booking process for our big trip to Europe this summer!  I talked with our friends in Germany and we figured out which days would be best for us to visit.  We had to do some tweaking to our original itinerary, but I think the end result will work out well for everybody.  So far I've only got our outbound flight to London booked and our homebound flight from Germany booked.  There's a ton of stuff in-between that needs to get booked, but we've got a pretty good idea of what that will entail.  At least I got the most important part out of the way!  We are definitely going there, and we are definitely coming back home.  LOL.  I think picking out the hotels for the time we're not staying with friends is the worst part.  I'm always terrified I'm going to pick one that is unpleasant.  I keep thinking I'm sure about one, and then I start second-guessing after I look at others.  I'll probably put off the final decision on those until a later date! (side note - if you've got tips for what we should do/where we should stay in London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam - feel free to share them with me!)

Traveling has really become a priority for me in the past couple of years.  There are so many places around the country and around the world that I just really need to see.  Jer and I realize that our opportunities for travel will be decreasing in the coming years as we start a family, so we are trying to do as much as we can right now.  You don't have to be a millionaire to be a world-traveler; you just have to adjust your priorities.  There are some things we'll be giving up by taking this trip, but we think the benefits will far outweigh the costs.  My good friend Iris worked a second part-time job over the winter holidays specifically to use that money for a trip.  She wanted to travel around Europe for 3 months, and she's doing it right now.  I really admire her tenacity in setting that goal and then seeing to it that she achieved it.  (She's going to be blogging about her adventures here.)  In other words, if you want to travel...MAKE IT HAPPEN.        

Friday, March 5, 2010

Aunt Duty

Last night I volunteered for Aunt Duty so that my sister could get in a workout.  My niece, Olivia, (or as I like to call her, Livy Love) is a joy to be around.  She's a very happy, inquisitive 19 month old.  Her vocabulary is expanding exponentially these days, and it's so cool to hear her learn a new word.  It's also hilarious when you think you're suggesting a really awesome activity for her and she just looks at you and says, "No."  Haha.  My sister has a mirror in Livy's bedroom that is surrounded by wallet size pictures of important people in her life.  I like to bring her in there when I'm babysitting and quiz her on the people.  She's such a smarty pants.  I have to give her extra credit for getting certain ones right, considering all my sisters and I look pretty similar!

I can tell she's going to take after her mother (and me!) in the sense that she already has a shoe fetish.  She loves putting on grown-ups' shoes, or simply just collecting and stockpiling them.  She snatched my flip flops last night and took them in the other room.  When she came back, I asked her where she took them and she very simply said, "closet."  Like, duh, that's where shoes go, Aunt Janet.

I love how Livy gets excited at the mention of certain people who she's become especially fond of.  Our exchange student, Kim, got to know Livy over a period of 6 months, but left in January to return to Germany.  I pulled up a picture of Kim on my phone last night and showed it to Livy and she immediately yelled "Kim!" and smiled.  She definitely loved her Aunt Kim and won't be forgetting her any time soon.

While I love interacting with Livy and teaching her new things, I think my favorite moments with her are quiet ones spent in my lap.  She'll be sitting next to me on the couch and then suddenly scoot over and climb into my lap, facing outward, with her back resting against my chest.  I think she appreciates and desires that feeling of closeness and security just as much as I love providing it!  Here's to many more days of Aunt Duty, a job I will never get tired of.
 
 Showing off her cuteness by the pool


Livy and Kim

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reviews

One of the great things about the Internet is how much research you can do on it before making a purchase.  I do a lot of online shopping (Amazon.com is my FAVE), and it's nice to see what other people think of a product before I shell out any bucks for it.  Recently we installed an induction cooktop in our kitchen, which requires a certain type of cookware.  I searched for items that were specifically made for induction cooking, and the prices were through the roof!  I didn't want to spend the same amount on the pots and pans as I did on the appliance!  I figured my best bet would be to buy items that weren't necessarily marketed or produced solely for induction, but just happened to work on them.  The way to know if something is induction-capable is to hold a magnet to its base and see if it sticks.  Well, that test is not easily performed over the Internet!  The next best thing was to read the reviews.  I would find a cookware set that I thought looked good, and then peruse the reviews to see if anyone mentioned using them on their induction stoves.  This helped me eliminate some candidates and eventually choose an affordable set that has worked perfectly for us.

On the flip side, reviews can really make me second-guess a purchase I thought I was set on.  It's hard to please everyone all of the time, so I know I have to take some people's comments with a grain of salt.  Even with that said, it's hard to ignore negative reviews.  We've recently started looking for a fence company and have been reading reviews online.  When you come across a company that has 75% glowing reviews and 25% less than thrilled reviews, what do you do?  Obviously they pleased a majority of the folks, but others were left disgusted.  It's hard to know what kind of experience you'll personally have with something, when you're trying to take someone else's word for it.  While I do take notice of negative reviews, I don't place an exorbitant amount of faith in them, especially when they are few and far between.  Don't get me wrong - if a company or product has nothing but negative reviews, or a large majority of bad comments, I will look for an alternative.  But, I won't write off a possibility if just one person hated their experience.  As the saying goes, don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch! 

I think the same can be said for people.  There will always be somebody who met you while you were having a bad day, and they leave the experience with a negative opinion of you.  That's understandable.  In that situation, you can only hope that there are enough people out there willing to write you a positive review because most days with you aren't bad apple days!