Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Speed of Dreams

A few things. First, I want to thank all of you amazing readers for your comments on this post last week. I was completely overwhelmed by the response and loved being able to engage with you guys further on the topic! You've all reminded me why I love this blog community!

Second, I've been missing for a few days, I'm posting late today, and I'm all out of whack! Guess that's what happens when you're given an extra day off over the weekend. I had an amazing Friday and three day weekend. More on that to come!

Third. It's hot. Way too hot. Like 87 degrees in our house hot. Andrew has finally agreed that something MUST be wrong with our central air. Even after suffering a bit (though not quite THIS badly) at the end of last summer. Hopefully he did what he was supposed to and called an HVAC company today during his lunch break.......

Despite the brutal temps in our house at the moment, upon walking in from outside it actually feels mildly cool. This may be hard to imagine, but at the peak of the heat today it was a wonderful 96 degrees without counting the heat index. And anyone not familiar with Baltimore, you must know that the humidity here drives up the heat index to ungodly temperatures. Thankfully, I get to teach in an air-conditioned modular building while the other half of the school had to suffer with broken A/C. But joke was on me when I had to return to a hot house and a furry cat that thought it was a great idea to cuddle in this heat. Gross.

Ok. So enough of my complaining and let's cut to the chase. I'm a seasonal music kind of gal. Growing up in Indiana, we lived in an old house with no A/C so I had to find ways to cool down. One way that helps me to cool down is to get in a cool state of mind. That starts with music. Driving home from the post office this afternoon, I heard one of my latest favorites on the radio. It's an effortless and relaxed sounding tune from ALO. Maybe it was really the cool air in the car, but when Speed of Dreams hit the airwaves, I could have sworn I felt a cool summer breeze blow in from the ocean. An instant cool down.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Year of the House: Patio Furniture

It's been a while since I've written about any of our house updates. To be honest, life has taken over and this past month has not been focused on The Year of the House in any way. The weather has been beautiful and so there have been baseball games to go to, hikes to take in the parks, walks to go on with Lilah, and outdoor cafe tables to sit at. The last time I even mentioned anything about our house, I wrote about painting our bedroom. And despite our determination to get that job finished, I am sure you can guess how that turned out.

With all of our spare time being spent outdoors, we've been thinking a lot more about how to turn our outdoor spaces into additional rooms of our house. We have our finished patio to enjoy and a fairly barren roof top deck. Believe it or not, the roof deck is one of the coolest outdoor areas in the heat of the summer, so we're determined to create a lounge-y room-like space to enjoy. Here are a few of the sets of furniture that we think would do the trick.

via Crate & Barrel
via Frontgate
via Kingsley-Bate
We're still trying to make an ultimate decision based on pricing, size, style, and upkeep. In addition, there is the continual question-- do we go teak or all-weather resin wicker? Andrew is busy at work making dimensioned paper pieces and scooting them around on a mock up of our roof top deck. Outdoor lounge furniture turns out to be more expensive than we had thought, but everything that we've liked is great quality so we'd have to look at it as an investment. In the long run, we'd rather have something that lasts than have to get new furniture again in a few years.

Which set is your favorite? Any of you have teak or resin wicker? And why did you make your decision one way or another? Maybe you can sway us toward our ultimate choice.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog Because You Love to Blog

Recently, I've been feeling a bit bummed out with the blogging world. I open up my Google Reader with hopes to read great content and instead I see giveaway after giveaway. Recently, some blogs have hardly had any content other than giveaways, which is not why I began reading them in the first place. Feeling frustrated, I tweeted this:
Within minutes, I was overwhelmed by an outpouring of feedback from all sorts of people. Some comments were from people that completely agreed with me. Others from people that felt they had strayed too far from what their original purpose of blogging used to be and thanked me for the reminder.

I had previously written about my frustration in comparing myself to others around me. I suddenly realized that was no longer an issue for me. Certainly, as bloggers, we all want to have a strong readership, but for me the numbers suddenly no longer mattered. I was watching other blogs grow on giveaways alone and it hit me. I'd rather have ten readers that care about what I am sharing than one hundred readers that are only in it for the free stuff.

I'm guilty of having the occasional giveaway. I think most blogs do have giveaways now and again. Giveaways are fun, but I don't want to be overloaded with them to the point that my written content comes second to a giveaway. I am not blogging for income, numbers, or solely to provide free stuff. I am blogging because I love to write and I want to share my passions.

I mulled over this idea of writing a blog post about this topic. I didn't know if I should write this post because I am a worry wart. I will probably offend people. I might even lose readers that I enjoy engaging with. But this is my space. And as much as I worry about all of that, I also love controversy. I love debate. I love conversation. So why hold back on who I am and not write about something that really hit home for me, and apparently so many others.

After my tweet, I had engaging and thoughtful conversation from so many individuals, including some of my fabulous readers and other bloggers that I admire. THIS is what blogging is about, I thought. It's about expressing opinions and feelings. It's about writing about what you love. It's about building community.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Surprise Mail

Had you forgotten about my little snail mail experiment? I had. In fact I had almost entirely given up hope that anyone would come through for me. I got home from a long day of teaching last week, checked the mail and found this:
I thought absolutely nothing of it since I tend to get snail mail here and there from friends and family. I didn't pay attention to the post mark and thought maybe it was an invitation to a friend's wedding or something of the sort. So I opened the envelope...
...and I became very excited when I saw this:

The first card had made its way back to my house! Its final route? Baltimore to Connecticut to Rhode Island to New York City to California and finally back to good old Charm City.

I am beyond thrilled that I got one of the ten cards back since I had quickly given up on the whole experiment. This has kept my hopes alive, and I'm crossing my fingers that I'll at least get one or two more in the mail. Of course, I will most definitely keep you all updated if another one come my way. Keep your fingers crossed for me! :)
P.S. The winner of the Loralyn Designs giveaway is commenter #18, Shirley! Congrats Shirley! I'll be in touch with you via email shortly!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The War on Drugs

Always on the lookout for new music (at least new music to me) I found myself chatting with a former co-worker of Andrew's at a party a few weeks back. He had just returned from his annual SXSW trip. Of his favorites this year were The War On Drugs. I made a mental note like I often do to check the band out and I like what I heard. They have a bit of an ambient sound to them with hollow vocals and airy guitars. Hope you enjoy a few of my favorites from their most recent album.

What have you been listening to lately?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The King and Queen Seat

We don't tend to buy a lot of stuff. We try to keep our stuff to a minimum in fact. But this weekend REI was having an amazing sale and we needed a few more things to add to our hiking and camping gear for our trip that we'll be taking out west this summer. One of the things on the list was a pair of new hiking boots for both of us. After we both found what we needed, it was obligatory that we tested them out. So we headed north of Baltimore to Rocks State Park.

This was the first time we had gone to this particular park and we were happily greeted with a 3 mile hike through various levels of elevation. And rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. This is the kind of hiking that I love. I liken it to the game of Tetris-- you have the think about each step you take beforehand to know just where your foot will fit along the trail.

The ultimate destination was the King and Queen Seat, a huge rock cliff that had been used by the Susquehannock Indians as a meeting place. In one of the rock formations you can actually see where two seats had been carved out for the leaders of the tribe to sit while the rest of the group sat below. And while I'm no rock climber, you should be able to spot some rock climbing ropes hanging down the side of the cliff as evidence of a few brave souls.

And in case anyone doubted why I should, for the most part, be the one behind the camera and not in front of it, well, here you go. This is what happens when you try to take sneaky photos of me while I'm trying not to freak out about the potential of falling over the edge of a steep cliff to my death.
You're welcome. I know you loved that one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

And what better way to end a good day of hiking than to stop at a little ice cream stand for some milkshakes. Milkshake comatose is how this day ended. All in all, this weekend was pretty much fantastic! Did you have just as awesome of a weekend?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday Night Surprise

In case you missed my Instagram or tweet, this was the fun surprise for Andrew last night--

And it was pretty awesome. Except I'm really bad at not taking photos so this is all I've got. Let me just say this-- the show was raw and stripped down which is the way music is supposed to be. And it was a perfect night for a show at Merriweather.

Andrew had read an article about The Black Keys several weeks ago. They were freaking out about their huge tour because they didn't know what to do about their stage concept. A big tour like this is a totally new concept for them. In the article, they had mentioned that they finally decided on putting some big lights on stage and getting a big disco ball. During the show, they definitely had some big lights and nothing more. During the encore, they definitely had a big disco ball. And the surprise ending for the finale? A big light up sign reading The Black Keys.

There are songs in which Dan Auerbach, the guitarist in the duo, switches from acoustic to electric guitar. All fine and dandy when you can edit tracks and make it seamless on an album. When playing live, there is literally a 30 second gap in the middle of the song while he leaves stage, swaps guitars, and starts back into the song. Things like this make the music true to what it is-- stripped down and naked. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

While they played the songs that everyone wanted to hear, they also dug back to some of their original records. My favorite part of the show was when they played as just the two--drums and guitar--without their touring musicians. The sound dynamics from hushed, quiet notes to loud, raucous, crunchy guitars was great. Some might be disappointed in a show like The Black Keys because it isn't by any means a spectacle. But those are the kinds of concerts that I love the most and last night was by no means an exception.

(Oh yeah, and the Arctic Monkeys were pretty raucous and fun too!)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Punch List

It's been a long time since I put together a punch list, but there has been a lot of stuff going on lately that I've been wanting to share.

1. I finally made myself take a step back from my work. After writing about feeling overwhelmed, I realized that I HAD to find some me time!

2. Some of that me time included our first and second Orioles games of the year. Yes, we definitely went on Friday night. Then we couldn't help but go again Tuesday night. Thanks Oriole Park and Camden Yards for having $6 tickets on Fridays for student ID night (yes, I totally still use my college ID even though it's been two years since I finished my master's degree. I like to call it the teacher discount.) And thanks again for having $9 Tuesday Bargain Night tickets. I love baseball season and there is nothing better than relaxing on a beautiful summer evening at a baseball game. And if you're from Baltimore and didn't know about these awesome discounts, you're welcome.

3. This weekend we also spent an afternoon hiking in Patapsco Valley State Park. It was great to get out of the city and hike. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do outdoors.

4. We finally got the tennis rackets back out and have been heading to Patterson Park to play tennis. I love having the park right around the corner from our house!

5. We planned our summer road trip out west!!!! I am beyond excited about this one! (Hence all of the exclamation points). We're planning on going to the Badlands, then on to Yellowstone, and finally Grand Tetons. If Andrew has enough vacation time, we may squeeze in a few extra days and go to Rocky Mountain National Park as well. I'm so excited to revisit some of my favorite National Parks, and for Andrew it will be a first. I'm positive that he's going to be in awe of these beautiful, beautiful places. I mean how can you not be in awe of things like this:

6. 20 more school days til summer break! Yes, the countdown has definitely begun.

7. One of my graduation cards made it in the Etsy Finds email yesterday! Yippee!

8. Our next home project will involve painting our bedroom. We're hoping to get that done this coming weekend. I really need to update you all on our half bath and my studio space. There have been lots of changes and I keep forgetting to write about them.

9. Tomorrow night is going to be awesome. I have a surprise planned for Andrew and he has no clue what we are doing. I'll have to keep it a secret too with you guys in case he happens to read this. I'll let you know how it went down. My only clue to you is that it has something to do with one of my recent blog posts. ;)

That's it for now guys! What have you been up to lately? Anything you're super excited about these days?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hold On

Recently I've been really into the raw sounds of the Alabama Shakes. Fronted by Brittany Howard's soulful and explosive voice, the Alabama Shakes originated as a high school band. Now, I don't know about you, but if our school's best high school band (or even my short stinted high school band) sounded as good as the Shakes, I would have been a pretty happy camper. The Alabama Shakes have created their own original roots sound that is unlike any other group I've been listening to lately. There's not much that I don't like about this band.

What have you been listening to lately?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kinetic Sculpture Race

I'm finally getting around to sharing some photos from my favorite event in Baltimore. Every year, The American Visionary Art Museum hosts the Kinetic Sculpture Race in which teams race their sculptures across Baltimore and complete an obstacle course. The course consists of a boat ramp in which the sculptures enter the water (and inevitably a few fall apart), a sand pit, and a mud pit. The sculptures are quite awesome, ranging from a pink poodle, a frog, and giant platypus, and other such things. Each sculpture is man powered, usually by bike parts and wheels that have been slapped together in some strange fashion.

Each year's race is just as entertaining as the last. And the winner? It's not the sculpture that comes in first, it's the sculpture that comes in right smack dab in the middle.

What sorts of events and festivals do you have happening in your city?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

See What's Shakin' in the Real World

It's been a busy month. School has been exhausting-- field trips to go on, track meets to watch, closing ceremonies to plan, and crazy kids to harness. Then I come home and blog, design, print, score, fold, package. I'm not really sure how many Mother's Day cards I've made up to this point. Not to mention everything else in between.

Yesterday I got a phone call from Andrew around 5 in the evening. "Are you here yet?!" Whaaaaaaat? Oh crap. I forgot. I was supposed to meet him at his office (which just so happens to be in the Inner Harbor) so that we could watch some crazy guy tight rope walk over the harbor. It was one of those moments where I realized I needed to snap out of it. Yes, he was supposed to have reminded me so that I wouldn't forget, but I should have remembered to begin with.

I feel like I've become so consumed with work on all levels that I've literally forgotten to take a step outside and see what's happening. The work I've been putting in has been paying off, but it's causing me to miss out on a lot of other things in life. I struggle constantly with finding balance between work and my personal life. Yet again, I missed something kind of cool (ok, Andrew said it ended up being pretty lame, but that's not the point). The end result was watching a video on his phone of the guy tight rope walking-- back to the virtual world again.

There are so many things to keep up with in an online business-- blogging, twitter, facebook, responding to client emails. Soon I get sucked into a deep, dark hole called my MacBook and try to emerge for dinner and some relaxation right before bed.

The whole thing reminded me of the song Good Excuse by John Butler Trio. (Yes, there is ALWAYS a song for EVERYTHING in my world.)

It's a good reminder that I need to step away from my work every now and again. That it's ok to take a night off to relax. That I need to keep my weekends for myself. That I need to unplug every now and again.

How many of you struggle with finding balance between your work life and personal life? What sorts of things do you do to make sure you have down time and enjoy life?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Perks of Being a Teacher

Part of being a teacher means that you get to go on really awesome field trips. And our school just so happens to know how to plan a good field trip. A week ago, we spent the day in DC with all of our middle school kids. I've been to DC more times than I can count, but despite the fact that DC is only a short 45 minute drive away, most of my kids have not been to DC. They had no idea that all of the Smithsonian museums were free, that the National Mall was not a shopping mall, and that snipers like to hang out on the roof of the White House (yes, that was bit of fun and trivia for them that they were most excited about). We were dropped off along the National Mall and headed to White House first. On our way walking to the White House, the Presidential helicopter flew in, Barack Obama on board returning from Afghanistan, and landed on the White House lawn. Unfortunately, my group was not quick enough to make it there in time to President Obama get off the helicopter, but many of the other groups of students were-- truly an amazing experience for them that they will not forget.

After a stop at the White House, we headed to the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. I wanted to take my students here because we had read several short stories in class that dealt with the Vietnam War. We actually ended up spending the most time here as my students searched for people that shared their last name and got etchings of the name as a keepsake. They were amazed with the number of names on the wall and how huge the monument was.

Next, we headed to the Lincoln Monument, counting each step as we made our way up to Abe.

Then, down to the Korean War Memorial.

Next, the World War II Memorial.
A quick rest at the Washington Monument.

And finally a stop at the Natural History Museum to end the day. 

It was a lot of walking (I certainly didn't mind) and the kids got tired quickly, but I kept pushing them to continue on so they could soak in as much as possible. Wouldn't it be awesome if every day in the classroom was like this? ;)

Have you been to our nation's capitol? What is or was your favorite thing to visit in Washington, DC?
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