Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Art of Celebrating & the Significance of Penguins

One of the highlights of my workweek is when J comes to my side of town for lunch. Sometimes, she brings her adorable munchkin children, and sometimes it's just the two of us. When the kids are there, it's awesome because her son and daughter are precious, special, intelligent little people. And, grown up time is good, too, because there are things we just don't discuss in front of little ones. Either way, I really dig it when any of them visit!

This week, J arrived at our regular spot bearing gifts. My birthday is around the corner and she had treats from herself and from the kids. They didn't have to do a thing - having such a great friend and little pals is more than enough - but it was so thoughtful and appreciated.
From J, I received a heartfelt card and a funky, beautiful candle garden. And each of her kids made me a festive, beaded bracelet.

The candles are really cool, match the kitchen decor perfectly and the votives inside smell all coconut-y and vanilla-y, and remind me of The Flamingo in Vegas. (Can't wait for Steinvic to get home to smell them!) The bracelets fit perfectly and I actually have another wooden bracelet that they remind me of and yes, I plan to wear them altogether!

J's daughter also made a keychain for me. She couldn't have known the significance of penguins, (my Grandma held one I'd given her the night she passed away, and was still holding it when she was taken to the funeral home) and I didn't even mention it at lunch for fear I'd get a little choked up.

So, I really appreciate this penguin keychain...

And...the kids made awesome birthday cards for me. I love their handcrafted artwork more than anything Hallmark could ever produce:

Because of my demented sense of humor, my favorite part of the card experience was when J informed me that her son said something to the effect of, "Mom...Sister put a pile of dead bodies in front of a stone on Miss Tangles card..." which Sister denied, but you be the judge. (Pile of bodies, according to Brother, on the left.)

But Brother, for all the cute animals and rainbows he drew, managed to insert his own hint of "evil," too. Check out the back of his card:

YIKES! I kid, of course...I love these cards, and the unique take on what is celebratory (monsters and a reminder that I'm one step closer to the grave) are absolutely perfect for me.

Thanks to J and The Little Ones for making my pre-birthday celebration fantastic!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby...

Yesterday was Steinvic's birthday. He doesn't want you to know, but he turned 50. He looks at least 10 years younger than that...gets compliments and wrong guesses all the time, so it's not just because I'm smitten...

Saturday, we took a ride on the Cincinnati Dinner Train. I knew he'd never heard of it...I've lived here my whole life and never heard of it...and so it was a great surprise. Our girlfriend - a barmaid at our local - helped immensely with the teasing about where we were headed. I'd texted her the name and she smiled at Steinvic and said, "Hope you're not afraid of heights!" Perfect...he was completely put on, a little worried we were going to do a hot air balloon trip because my parents once had and I told him we were going to a place that they'd been to.

We got there and he was pleasantly surprised and relieved.

I, on the other hand, was a tiny bit worried because we were seated at a four top and who knew who would be joining us for dinner? Would they be young? Our age? Make out couple? Super old? Who could have guessed...

This couple was fabulous and friendly...just very real. They've been together 5 years and share as many children (none together but they're 100% invested in them just the same) and they were just lovely. We all laughed a lot, about many things. The company was just right, the scenery was beautiful, the staff was perfect and appreciated, and the food was pretty good, considering that the whole thing was more about the experience than eating to us...

We stopped at our local on the way home, but we were tired. We woke on Sunday - his actual birthday - and I ran out to the market for fresh produce. While I prepared a big brunch, he got a few calls from family and friends. And I gave him the rest of his birthday gifts. I'd given him a new Claddaugh ring from Ireland, and a bottle of 18 year old Jameson, but I'd also been working on a photo album, from birth to present, since January of this year. That went over quite well...

Meanwhile, as we sat comfy in our home, Steinvic didn't know that Young Man and I had been plotting, and that he was on his way, lovely girl in tow, to our house. I scampered around, doing house things, but Steinvic thought I was on my usual weekend rampage.

Boy, was Steinvic surprised. To be honest, he'd been a little quiet. Contemplative. doesn't matter. The thing is, no matter what I'd planned for his birthday, no matter what year we were celebrating, everything melted away when Young Man walked in our door. Big hugs. Giant smiles. Warmth. (A different kind of warmth than the 90 degree plus weather...the kind of warmth that you remember at 60, 70 and 80 years old.)

The kids are still here. I could have them here every day and be perfectly happy...Young Man's girl is an absolute sweetie. And Young Man? We get closer all the time. And Steinvic helped me throw together a big meal of grilled such after work, so we're all comfy and watching stuff on tv, the kids in the basement and us up here on the main floor.

The crazy thing is how comfortable I am with this exquisite family feeling. I am sitting here in my PJs, typing away, and I've got this happy-sad lump in my throat. It's because this is all I've ever wanted - a family. A real, live, no weirdness, comfortable, solid, normal, unusual, gorgeous family.

Happy first day of your 51st year, Steinvic, and thank you a zillion for our incredible life. Because of you, every day feels like my birthday...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ode to My Converse

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to my Converse:

I "traded" for these Converse in 1989. I worked with a hip chick named Becky, and she'd been eyeing a black and white, oversized, rayon shirt I wore all the time with leggings. It had the alphabet all over it and she loved it and offered to buy it from me. As tight as money was at that time, I liked her shoes and suggested a trade.

I wore these shoes everywhere for years. All over the University of Cincinnati campus. To Washington, DC. To Memphis, Tennessee. To the park. To raves. Around my first apartment. My Chucks.

And now, I'm going to turn 39 in a few weeks. While I don't think you're ever too old to be cool, I don't wear these near as much as my soon-to-be-niece would wear them. (Plus, you see how silly Madonna looks these days in her leather corset. There truly is a difference between being empowered and...just not looking in the mirror before you leave the house. My as you like.)

She'll be 18 in a few months, and she is a great kid. She's sometimes quiet, slightly moody and very artsy. Brooding. I won't say she's the typical teenager, because to me, she is anything but ordinary. Get her talking and you see through the angst and into the soul of someone who is going to be somebody significant to many. Not now...because now, all anyone will see are the flannel shirts, leather corded necklaces, Converse and sketch pads. But later... Later.

So, I put these Converse in the washer tonight, and as you can see, they're drying by the vent. I'll send them in a specially wrapped box with some other treasures I'd have appreciated at that time in my life. Some paint pens. Some stickers. Little vials of fragrance. Girl things that will give her a glimpse into how special she will be, and how special she is now.

Goodbye, Converse. May you continue to make your wearer walk a little taller and feel a little funkier. I'm old enough now that I wear my grooviness inside. (Okay, maybe outside, too, but just now in the form of a little too much rockstar eyeliner.) Cheers...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chicago Style

The promised recap! already know we survived the MegaBus to Chicago. What you don't know is that our driver was beyond sassy. I think she might be crazy. Or sleep deprived... All along the trip, she'd narrate to us now and then. (I suspect that it was to entertain herself or to help her stay awake.) We kept hitting the rumble strip, and I'd look up now and again to see her reflection in the rearview mirror, chatting away on the phone. When we finally got to Chicago, she let out this big, victorious, "Whooooooooooooooooo! Whoooooooooooooo! We made it!" It was almost like...this was some unusually large achievement...thus my concluding that she was super tired or something.

After a death defying cab ride to Fairfield Suites, we checked in. Our room was nice...and the entire hotel stay was thanks to Steinvic's well-deserverd anniversary perks he'd earned from work. So awesome! We were right off Michigan Avenue and that location couldn't have been any better. We could walk everywhere we wanted to go.

We hadn't eaten a thing besides a muffin and some snacks, so we headed off to find something good. We saw Pizzeria Due and ducked inside, scoring a table immediately. While we are typically thin crust folks, we do like the occasional deep dish, and when in Rome...

After, we walked around, checking everything out and we ducked into a couple different bars. We called it a night and got up bright and early the next day for the Reds vs. Cubs game.

We rode the L into town, stopped at the Cubby Bear for a pre-game beverage and met up with a friend of ours from Cincinnati who was also there for the game with his girlfriend and her parents. After a few beers and Cubby Bombs, Steinvic and I headed over to Wrigley and found our seats. Did I mention GREAT seats...

We spanked the Cubs, 13 - 3, and even though we were a little concerned that we'd get some crap from the Cubs fans (I had on my Mr. Redlegs shirt), everyone was very nice and friendly.

We went home, freshened up and - since it was the 4th of July and all - considered going to the fireworks, but we were just kind of done with crowds. So, on America's day of Independence, we decided to explore a different culture. It was a long, leisurely dinner and Steinvic's first real Indian restaurant, so that was kind of nice. We watched the fireworks on the HD television in our rooms, lights out, all cozy in our giant bed.

The next day, we visited Navy Pier. Navy Pier to us is what a fabric store is to my Mom. We always plan to go for a little bit, and end up making a day of it.

We spent lots of time people watching, water admiring and beer drinking. Yay! Most of the beer drinking took place at Harry Caray's. ( I should add here that we did go other places, like the phenomenal Stained Glass display and the shops. ) Since our last Chicago visit, Steinvic has wanted to eat a burger at Billy Goat Tavern. (It's the place the cheeseburger, cheeseburger, no Coke, Pepsi, no fries, chips! skit from Saturday Night Live was born.) Because it's kind of a dive, Steinvic was expecting a homemade, satisfying burger. You could barely find the burger for the bun, and it didn't have much flavor. So...he was a little disappointed in that.

And, just to make this day a total culinary bust, that night, we ate at Su Casa. Don't eat at Su Casa. It kinda sucked. It is expensive. You may think, "Mmmm...Mexican!" and you will be sad. You will wonder why you gave in to your primal impulse to eat Mexican food on vacation in the middle of Chicago. You will walk away with (even at only one drink per person) a $75 bill for an unsatisfactory meal and wonder what the hell happened. No.

We woke on Tuesday with high hopes. We thought...we will get one last deep dish pizza. We will go to the top of Hancock Tower. We will buy bath bombs for me at the Lush store at Macy's. Well, we did some of that. We got pizza at Gino's East. We walked a little. Then we went back to the room and zonked out. Between the heat, sun, drinking and walking, we were kind of overdue for some real chill time. We did go out later, just to walk and walk and see what we could get into. We ended up at a tavern called O'Leary's and had some drinks and listened to tunes on the jukebox and shared stories with the bartender. It was a low key day and that was totally fine with us.

Wednesday meant time to pack up and catch the Mega Bus home! We got to the bus stop in record time and there were tons of people waiting. We both thought, surely these people aren't all getting on our bus to Cincinnati! And this was true...there were some going to Iowa City, some going to Memphis and finally, a half hour late, our bus shows up. It was so hot...there is no "bus station" a cost saving measure, Mega Bus provides a sign on the sidewalk and that is where you wait! No shade, no seats. We were so happy to see that bus!

It was a different bus driver, and this one came with his own personal masseuse! Yep, this dude's girlfriend was along for the ride. She sat in the seat behind him and rubbed his shoulders, kissed his ear and basically hung on him the whole time. Uh...thanks for letting us ride along on your date!

In a nutshell, that was our trip! Totally enjoyed it. We got to spend some real, quality time together and that was the best part...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stay Tuned...

Stay tuned for a full recap of our trip and a review of the MegaBus experience.

For now, Steinvic and I are in full chill mode and I just don't wanna give up that time for computer time.

Surely you all understand...More tomorrow...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We're Here...

We made it! The Mega Bus is an experience. It's chaotic, and kinda scary when you have a sassy driver who gets mad when people don't know how to drive, but overall, very convenient and we were able to chill while we were driven from Cincinnati to Chicago.

Our room is nice and cool, and we're all refreshed and ready to head out for some chow. (Yeah, it's almost 5 p.m. our time, and aside from a muffin and some Cheezits and crunchy wasabi peas, we haven't eaten today!

Hope you're enjoying your Independence Day Weekend so far...more later!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Headed for Chicago!

Steinvic and I are sitting here on the sofa, enjoying our first day of vacation. We went out for lunch and zipped around gathering a few odds and ends we'd need for our trip. In a little bit, we'll head up to our local (a good friend of ours is celebrating his last nights of work there) and meeting up with J for a few... nice way to kick off our adventure!

For those of you thinking, "Damn! These people take an awful lot of vacations!" it really isn't true. Really! It's just that we had a lot of things smooshed together between May and July and all of our travels have been centered around events. The conference in Vegas, our company provided condo the week after that in Ft. Walton, and now this trip to The Windy City.

We originally planned to go way back when U2 tickets went on sale...Steinvic is thinking November. We'd just gone to shows in Phoenix and Vegas in October and no sooner than we came home, they listed extra dates. Well, you have probably heard that Bono had emergency back surgery about a month ago, but by then, we'd already made hotel arrangements that couldn't be changed. Steinvic generously volunteered his anniversary points (they can trade these in for a variety of things in a catalog) he'd earned through work and paid for four nights at a great hotel right along the Magnificent Mile. So, we're going anyway!

We'll be taking in a Reds game, enjoying Taste of Chicago, and hopefully seeing some fireworks while we're there. A couple we know will also be in town, so we plan to see them, too. Other than that, we're just going to explore.

AND, we're taking the Mega Bus there! I'm kind of excited about that...I hope we have as great of an experience as some friends of ours have had.

I'll have my trusty computer with me, so I'll let you know how it's going... Until then, enjoy your independence!