Monday, January 14, 2013

Pour Les Enfants

Victoria Soto was 27 years old. She graduated high school in 2003. She loved teaching and she loved her students. I bet we have a lot in common, except on December 14 she died while protecting her students and I was left wondering if I could have been that brave.

The way Newtown's tragedy has changed schools seems similar to the way 9/11 changed airport security. At my school, students are now required to have an emergency bag in the classroom with a change of clothes, water, and snacks, in case we are ever in lockdown for a significant amount of time. Our classroom doors are locked at all times. The front door to the school is controlled by an electronic lock. To get in, we (teachers, staff, families) must enter a security code. Today we were encouraged to view the "Active Shooter Training" video available on the web. And while all of these changes are being implemented in schools across the country, one thing has not changed. There are still families grieving in Connecticut. There are still children in Heaven who went there way too soon.

Many years ago, I fell in love with a beautiful lullaby sung by the Dixie Chicks (written by Radney Foster), called "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)." After the shooting, the song took on a new meaning for me. I decided to learn how to play it on guitar in remembrance of those 20 children.

The same with the Taylor Swift/Civil Wars song "Safe and Sound" from the Hunger Games soundtrack. Now it makes me think of the survivors and mourners. I hope they can find peace, and that they feel "safe and sound" even though they have suffered loss.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wedding Dress FAIL

*Disclaimer* Yes I am posting about these wedding fails, but that does not mean it was a horrible day. In fact, it was a beautiful, magical day, and what I remember most was the love we felt from everyone the whole time. What a great feeling to be able to experience!

The fail stories are still entertaining, which is why I am sharing them.

The trouble with finding a wedding dress started the first time my mom and I went in search of one. We signed up for an appointment at Alfred Angelo at a bridal fair, thinking "It's way too soon to start looking for a dress, so we'll just cancel the appointment later." Well, I never did cancel that appointment, and so one evening last January, after a harrowing day at work, we arrived to check out some gowns.

Here is some good advice... when people say you should look your best when trying on wedding gowns, they are right. Do NOT go try on wedding gowns when you a) forgot to wear deodorant that day, b) have greasy hair, c) are not wearing any makeup, d) are tired, e) are hungry, and f) on a day your school had a serious lockdown at the end of the day because of an incident in the parking lot.

But there we were. I tried on the first dress. It was nice, but not right. I tried on the second dress and wow! It was beautiful! It fit well! It sparkled! It had lace! And had I been feeling better about myself right then, it could have been my dress. In fact, we went back to look at that dress several times, eventually driving the sales lady to hate us (I'm sure).

The dress that could have been.

A few days later we went to another bridal shop. This shop was much more comfortable and way more fun. It also had dresses that were more like what I was looking for. I found one I loved! It had lace! It sparkled! It had a great trumpet fit! But my mom hated it. It was not fun.

The other dress that could have been.

I continued the search for the perfect dress at (sadly) a few other shops, and found one that just might be the one! It had sparkle! It had a unique lace petticoat! It didn't overwhelm my petite stature! Just one problem. The only way to make it short enough for me would have been to cut off much of the lace part at the bottom that I loved so much. So the search continued.

The other other dress that could have been.

At this point, I'd been searching for a dress for about 3 months. Pretty sure nobody (mother or bridesmaids) wanted to continue the search. And I was out of time, because many dresses take 7+ months to come in... and the wedding was just about exactly 7 months away. So I looked online, and called bridal shops to see if they had the dresses I liked online. One shop had one of the dresses. I rushed there after work one day and they almost didn't let me try it on. It was a size 18! I tried it on anyway and fell in love instantly. Like "OhmyGod. I'm-a-princess-and-this-is-my-dress!" I called my mom to come the the store right away and she did, and agreed that this was my dress. We found a veil that matched perfectly and thought everything would be fine and dandy. 

Did anyone mention that our sales lady was way past the age of being able to carry and zip up wedding gowns? She wrote everything down, and we checked it, paid the deposit and thought things would be fine. Then the dress came in.

The sales lady tried to tell me the dress was too small and she couldn't zip it up. That's an awesome feeling. To be "too fat" for your wedding dress the first time you try it on. In reality, she just didn't have the strength or dexterity to manage the zipper (but the damage to my psyche was done). Also, the veil was wrong! So wrong. Like poofed out to here and trailing out to there wrong. And the sales lady just said, "Oh well all we can do is bustle the veil." Bustle the veil? I don't think so lady.

Luckily, when I went back to show the manager how wrong the veil was, she agreed that it was not at all what I'd been expecting and fortunately was able to get the right veil in a few days before the wedding. The alterations lady was not so helpful. I was very clear about making sure the dress was trumpet shaped (since it appeared more a-line). Finally it got taken in as far as it needed to be, but there was another problem! The bust line was cut unevenly, which there wasn't really anything they could do about. But the bust was also too big on one side! And it was very obvious! And these infuriating people said they would not alter it to fix it. So on the wedding day, my mom and bridesmaids had to try to safety pin my dress tighter so there wouldn't be a horrible gap in the chest. The safety pin didn't hold, so in many of the pictures there is a gap and/or my bra is visible. So disappointing. Also, I don't have a nice professional photographer photo of the dress, or any nice photos of me in the dress showing the details of the dress (which shouldn't be surprising). At least it was a beautiful dress, even if it didn't fit perfectly. I wish I had a good reason to wear it again.

The dress that was.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Great Pantry Makeover

One of my goals for 2013 is to simplify things. I thought the pantry was a good place to start. There are no before pictures, but I will say it was bad. Like, don't open that door unless you want to be ambushed by brown paper bags and sprinkles bad. Luckily, all it took to tame the mess was quick trip to Dollar Tree. Here is the after.

Everything is neat and tidy! And it's labeled, so we will know exactly where things are! Is there room for improvement? Sure. The labels could have been typed, or there could be a pretty color on the wall behind the shelves, but this will definitely work for now. :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

13 in '13

Like many people, I don't believe resolutions should be saved up for the new year. I try to improve my life whenever I think it needs improving. In January, I prefer to come up with a to-do list for the year. Things I'd like to do but haven't gotten around to in the past. The list in my head contains many more than 13 things, but for now 13 seems like a manageable number.

1. Run a Marathon
This has been on my list since high school, when I figured it would happen in about ten years. Now those ten years have come and gone and I'm out of excuses. Time to show 15 year old me that I CAN run that far. Maybe not as fast as I could have many years ago, but if Oprah can do it, so can I!

2. Complete a Sprint Distance Triathlon
This was never on my radar until last summer, when at the gym I would run or bike (or both) and then go swim. I'm a little bit afraid of swimming in open water because I've heard sometimes the athletes do dastardly things during the swim portion, like kick your face or drag you back. I just want to have fun.

3. Give Up Meat for at Least a Month
This is another one a long time in the making. I'm not a big fan of meat. I generally don't like the taste or texture and I'm always worried I will undercook it and poison everybody. A few years ago I gave up meat for Lent but it only lasted a few weeks because I wasn't eating properly and ended up feeling really tired all the time. Now I know more about nutrition, we're signed up with a CSA, and I think it will be possible.

4. Grow Some Veggies or Herbs
This is another thing I've wanted to do for several years. I don't know anything about gardening, or when to plant what, so it should be interesting!

5. Compost
This seems to tie in with growing my own food. Time to give it a try!

6. Perform in a Play
It has been 6 years since I've been in a play. I would really like to be in another one.

7. Sing in Public
I always chicken out. Time to be brave.

8. Go Somewhere I've Never Been
I've become very comfortable in visiting my favorite spots-- San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Tahoe. Time to go somewhere new, and hopefully outside of California.

9. Help Others
I feel fortunate to be independent. Not everyone is that lucky. I would love to be able to help others who are less fortunate than I am, in some way other than donating things to Goodwill.

10. Simplify
Life gets too cluttered with things. I want to simplify life by getting rid of things and streamlining the things that stay.

11. Make an Item of Clothing
Over the summer I made an apron. It came out ok. Time to tackle something more useful, like a skirt.

12. Go to Church More Often
Some people think church is boring, but I like to go for the feeling of unity and love. I also love to sing in church, and our priest has a really cheesy sense of humor.

13. Work toward my financial goals
One of the things that seems to come with adulthood is debt. I would love to get rid of a lot of it this year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

'12 Faves

I wanted to do this before it became 2013, but got a little too busy. Here is a list of some of my favorite things from the past year.

12. KitchenAid Mixer
A gift from my mother-in-law that makes baking so much easier! I'm still not a huge fan of baking, but with this bad boy maybe I can become one.

11. Crazy Days and Nights
I'm addicted to celebrity gossip, and this blog has all the juciest stories! Best of all, on January 1 and July 1 the blogger reveals who the "blind" or secret stories were about.

10.  Adobe Photoshop Elements
The full version of Photoshop was more than I could afford and Elements did everything I needed it to do. Thanks to this program, I was able to design everything for the wedding, and do our Christmas cards, and my new planner.

9. The UPS Store
I go to the one by my house to print things in color. They printed all our stuff for the wedding and various things we've had at parties over the last year. They are cheaper than Kinko's and very friendly. And, their color printer is a laser-printer so everything comes out looking fantastic.

8. Parties!
In 2012 we had a painting party (thanks friends!), a couple of game nights, a Mad Men inspired birthday party, a father's day party, a 4th of July party, a simple little Halloween dinner party, a chili-themed birthday party, a Christmas cookie party, and a New Year's Eve party. Each one was a ton of fun!  

7. Michael's/Jo-Ann
I love these places. Before the wedding I probably went to one, the other or both at least once a week. I've even thought about getting a job there just so I'd have a legit reason to go everyday.

6. Disneyland
I have no words for how much I love Disneyland. I was fortunate to be able to go about every two months for all of 2012. It was the wonderful year of Disney.

5. Pinterest
I love getting ideas from Pinterest. Thanks to Pinterest, I've got some great new recipes, ideas for decorating my home, had some fabulous parties, got new little teacher tricks, know what to do with my hair other than ponytail, braid, or headband, and dress (slightly) more stylishly.

4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
This was a fantastic mystery novel narrated by an 11 year old girl in 1950's England. Couldn't put it down.

3.  Nike Dri-fit running gear. 
Sure, there are other companies that make great running clothes, but the Nike Outlet is just a few minutes away, so Nike it is. These clothes make running as comfortable as running can be.

2. Erin Condren Wedding Planner
This was great to have on hand while planning the wedding. There were stickers of various wedding tasks that could go on the calendar, there were lined pages and blank pages to take notes/sketch ideas, there was a monthly checklist, and it was customized! Now that the wedding planning is done, I wanted to buy the regular planner, but then decided to just make own. More on that another day.

1. My wedding rings
Gosh they are so pretty! I love them. :)