So. How 'Bout That Blog?

OK, so maybe I started this blog at a time of my life when there was a little too much going on to be able to keep up with it. After re-reading my past blogs (all SEVEN of them!), it seems that all I did was apologize for not blogging and then continue to not blog.

In any case, the summer and all its fury is over and I hope that, as as result, my time to write will increase. So, let's do a brief recap of the summer and fall until this point. The last time I wrote, Bryan and I were in the process of buying our first home. I'm happy to report that we closed on our first condo on September 23 and we're now officially homeowners!

The remainder of the summer, and fall up until now, has been filled with a lot of travel, weddings, bachelorette parties, weddings and travel. From Okoboji to Virginia to Nashville to Iowa City to Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to St. Louis, back to Nashville and Iowa City...I've stood up in weddings for the best of friends, watched my best girls from college and been able to go with Bryan to watch his best friends get married. When you boil everything down, it's not much to compain about. (Except when you sit down and calculate the costs of the bridesmaid dresses, updos, plane tickets, wedding gifts, bachelorette girfts and the like). But even then, every penny has been worth it to share in those memories with all of our close friends, and I know they would (and hopefully will!) do the same for us.

Speaking of which, wedding plans are coming along nicely! I've done a lot since July -- thank goodness. I get overwhelmed at times, when I look at our budget and checklist tools, but whenever I feel myself getting stressed, I just try to remember to enjoy every minute of this and to be thankful for it. We're coming up on 7 months until the big day -- which is just insane, considering we got engaged more than a year ago. But, I've picked a gorgeous bridesmaid dress for my girls, we picked a monogram AND ordered save the dates, which we are picking up next weekend! Now Bryan and I will just need to have a little assembly party with some glue dots, address labels and a bottle of vino. :) I also met with my florist a few weeks ago, which was really fun because we got to talk details. This whole time we've been planning, I've felt like I have 100,000 ideas that don't make sense. But after sitting and talking with Kath, she let me know what worked and what didn't and I think we came up with a really awesome vision! Given the location of our ceremony and reception, outside in such a natural setting, we're going with that for our centerpieces, etc. We just want to keep everything really organic, fresh and natural -- think flowers, trees, grass, light, rocks, wood, etc -- while keeping an upbeat, fun atmosphere. The most important thing to Bryan and I is that our wedding is a reflection of us as a couple, and that in the meantime, we throw one hell of a party! We want unique and fun! Only 222 days left :)

Other than all of that, Bryan and I have just been enjoying life in our new home, exploring our new neighbrhood and all it has to offer! Oh and my best friend Brittany moved back home from New York and I am SO EXCITED. I never got to see her before and now I can see her whenever I want!

Up this weekend: Going home to Iowa City to get some wedding stuff done (picking up save the dates, choosing our wedding bands and possibly meeting with our day-of-coordinator) -- and to see family, friends and the Hawkeyes.

Until next time...
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The Hunt Is Over

Wow. It's now the third week of July. Where does time go? It's super crazy and a little scary how fast time moves, and while at times, I like it, most of the time I don't. It just means that I'm getting older, and the things I look forward to come and go too fast.

Lots to report on this Monday night. Recapping the past few weeks, Bryan and I were here for the 4th of July. It's the first year in a while that we have been here, and it's also one of the only weekends this month that we aren't traveling. I should actually say that I was here -- Bryan was traveling for work and was only home for the actual 4th, during which time he was so exhausted from travel that he couldn't do anything with me. In any case, time was spent at the beach, Cubs game and BBQs, so overall a good weekend. Although I did wish for a little bit that I was in Okoboji, but I am happy to report that my sisters and I are heading up there the first weekend in August. there is something to be said for the lakes in Iowa. I just love going up there to relax, have fun in the sun, be on a boat, drink on the dock and spend time with my family.

So, as we know, Bryan and I have been looking for a condo to buy here in the city. Everything was going wrong: We found a place loved, it was too expensive. We found a place we loved that was affordable, and it was in the wrong location. We found a place we love, the taxes are too high. It seemed to be one thing after the other and we were beginning to question if we were trying to push something that just wasn't meant to be.

So, on what we had determined as our last day of hunting, we visited a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo. It's on Damen Avenue, in a fantastic neighborhood called Roscoe Village. Close to trains, bars, restaurants, stores, and in a great public school district -- a hard find in the city. As we were walking up, I said "I have a good feeling about this place." Sure enough, we loved it. It was built in 2002, and though not as big as some of the other places we liked, it is gorgeous and perfect for us. Literally the worst thing I can say about is that there is no foyer. Beggars can't be choosers.

So, we made an offer. (!) We made a few offers, in fact. The seller countered, so did we, and then we realized one small fact: The home is not VA approved. You see, we are doing VA financing, to take advantage of Bryan's time in the military; but, in order to do that, we have to buy a home that is already approved by the VA. No big deal, right? Well, normally it wouldn't be, but apparently, the VA is super backed up and the approval process can take up to three months! Naturally, the seller did not want to wait for three months to approve the building; the place is vacant and that's three months for her to take the place off the market. So, back to the drawing board.

Then we hear that wait -- the seller WILL wait to approve the building - but she won't come down on the price as a result of having to wait and she could "potentially" be missing out on some higher offers. Well, we couldn't go much higher than the last offer we put in. At that point, we had come up $25,000 from our original offer! Give me a break, right? Ar this point, we wanted this property so bad that we decided none of the other places we wanted were worth this stress, so we would give one more offer (the maximum we can afford) and if she said no, we were walking away from the whole process.

Wouldn't you know, she accepted our offer and now we are under contract to buy our first home!

We are over the moon with excitement. It is very, very stressful, don't get me wrong. Today, we had to come up with $2000 to put toward closing, have the home inspected, and pay for an attorney to look over our stuff. Which meant we first had to find an attorney, and schedule a home inspection, which is tomorow night. After that, we'll wait for the financing to go through and for the VA approval and hopefully, before the end of August we will be homeowners! My best friend told me tonight, "Wow, you're like a real adult. Getting married and buying houses." It's true, too. Not sure what to make of it all!

We were home this past weekend for another wedding. Our good friends got married in Iowa City and I was a bridesmaid. I must say, I just had a blast with my "high school" friends. I haven't gotten to write about them much, but I promise to devote a blog to each of them, because they are each so awesome. We all live around the United States -- from Iowa to Missouri to Illinois to Tennessee to New York. I miss them all so much and love that all of us are getting married and able to be involved in such an exciting time in each other's lives. The downside to the weekend was not being able to see much of my family. But, my mom and younger sister and her boyfriend are coming to Chicago this weekend and as mentioned, I will be going to Okoboji in a few weeks, too.

Next weekend, we are headed to Virginia for Bryan's childhood best friend's wedding. I"m excited to see where he grew up, and to meet some very important people in his life. It's always weird to me that we have been together 10 years and I haven't met some of his family, or his best friends, but we have plenty of time for that in our futures.

Wedding stuff has been put on hold for the time being as we settle this house issue. We did get some sample monograms back that we will choose and we are awaiting getting our engagement photos back. I can't wait to see them!

Longest blog ever. I have to bid adieu, since I have to rise at 5:30 am for a "voluntary" boot camp class at 6am. Aren't you proud? I told you, the quest never ends...
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My Ongoing Quest

I just made dinner and was reminded that for a brief moment in time, I thought about how I could do a cooking blog, like on "Julie and Julia." But, then I realized that I don't cook.

I'm TRYING, however. In my quest toward domestication, cooking is a priority. As we look for houses, Bryan is confused as to why I want a place with an amazing kitchen. You see, at this point, Bryan and I don't usually eat the same dinner. He cooks eggs, or eats a bag of chips for dinner. Me, I try to make something every night, but he is picky about what he eats. Or, at least what he eats that I cook.

In any case, Bryan is at a work training tonight and I made dinner. You see, I am on two quests: One toward domestication and the other toward losing weight. Both are ongoing, neverending. To achieve both goals, I have been a big fan of "Hungry Girl" recipe books. On Monday, I made Hungry Girl Macaroni and Cheese. Tonight, I made pizza. Not just any pizza though.

You take a tortilla - La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious -- put it on a pizza sheet. Tonight, I put reduced fat cheddar cheese, chicken, corn, tomato and black olives. Stick it in the oven at 325 degrees, for about 20 minutes and viola -- you have a delicious meal for about 300 calories.

Anyway. I think was it. Back to my wine and writing.
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Neverending Story

My reasons for started this blog were two-fold. For one, I want to write. Writing is what I love, it's what I do, and at the time being, my job is not the best medium for me to do so. So, I figured an online journal -- for lack of a better term -- would allow me to do so. Second, I want to write a book. I want to be an author. I want to write fiction, a memoir, anything. I wanted this blog to be a way to provide fodder for something to put in print. While I love writing as a journalist, I find that I can't do my best work writing about something that I'm not passionate about. I suppose that beggars can't be choosers.

Anyway, my point is that I'm finding that I'm not writing about what I actually want to write about on this blog, for fear of other people judging my thoughts. I want to write about my family and friends -- not in a bad way, of course -- but I don't want anyone to take my words personally, or think that I'm "talking" about them. I don't want to write about work, because -- well, having been in the career sector for the past four years, I know that recruiters (and co-workers) can find this blog and read it at any time.

I want to entertain people with my words. I want them to be interested in what I have to say. I want people to come back for more. But I also don't want anything I write on here to incriminate me. It looks as though I have to make the choice one way or the other, and own it.

There are tornado sirens going off right now, which is strange for Chicago. As we speak, I am on the couch, lightning is crashing, thunder booming and the Karate Kid -- the original -- is one. If you're reading this, you may or may not know that The Karate Kid is one of my top 10 favorite movies, EVER. I am beyond annoyed that they re-made it, with Jaden Smith of all people. Anyway, I think I might have Bryan on board with having our wedding walk into the reception to "You're the Best," by Joe Esposito. You know, the song that plays at the end of the movie when Daniel wins the championship? Ah, amazing.

Anyway, speaking of writing and The Karate Kid, I have to go do some freelancing and the movie ended. Time for a new movie, a glass of vino, and a little work.
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Sunday Night Blues

Another weekend come and gone. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I told you about most of the happenings of last week. It looks like we're going to get the photos from our engagement session sometime next month -- I can't wait! I'm not sure if I really conveyed the whole experience of our little photo shoot last week. It started with Jesh telling having Bryan and I stand side-by-side, holding hands. First, he asked Bryan a few questions about me and Bryan had to answer with the first thing that came to his mind. Then, I did the same. The next session, Jesh told Bryan to imagine that the only way he could express how much he loves me was through interpretive dance. Now, given that the only time Bryan has ever danced is when it's just us two and he's being goofy, or when we're at a wedding (and, therefore, drunk), there was basically no way that Bryan was going to dance -- interpretively -- in front of about 20 strangers. I'm sure the request alone evoked some great expressions from Bryan!

Anyway, this house hunt deal is really starting to get to me. I'm starting to feel totally discouraged. I'm feeling a little "duped" if you will. The whole time we've been looking, we've been looking at the listing price alone. No one told us to pay attention to taxes, or association fees and assessments. So, that's what we're paying attention to now. We're going out this week or next weekend, and hopefully seem some good stuff. I'm just starting to get worried that we're not going to find in anything and close on it in enough time, and Bryan and I are going to be out on our asses! Cross your fingers for us and send prayers our way.

Switching gears, it's 342 days until our wedding! A lot of people that I know are have just recently gotten married, and seeing all of their pictures makes me so excited for Bryan and I, all that we have ahead of us. You might think I'm crazy, but I'm already getting sad that the engagement period is coming to a close. I know, I know. I still have 11 months of planning ahead of me. But, we've already been engaged for almost 9 months! Knowing how fast that's gone by, and knowing how fast the planning has gone for my friends and family -- I know that the next 342 days are going to fly by. I just need to remember to enjoy every minute and not get caught up in the small stuff. Ha - I'm going to re-read this post in the month before the wedding!

The biggest thing on our to-do list right now is finding an officiant. Every one I have contacted to this point is retiring! What's up with that? I'm not quite sure, but I'm not happy about it, either. Anyone have any person they can recommend? (I suppose I have to make my blog public to get that request out there...)

Anyway, Bryan and I are engrossed in Friday Night Lights, so I'm going to head out and get some rest. Another long week of work ahead. Until next time ....
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The Hunt Goes On

It's been just over a week since my last post and man, does it feel longer than that! Work has been hectic; one of my team members left last week, which will be better in the long-run, but in the short-term -- *sigh*. The rest of my team and I are left to pick up the pieces and do not only our jobs, but hers, too. That's life, I suppose. At least I enjoy going to work every day and what I'm doing challenges me every day.

So, in the midst of that, Bryan and I went home to Iowa City last weekend. Going home is something I love; I miss my family every day and love getting to spend time with them, and also with Bryan's family since they live there, too. But, it also stresses me out. The weekends go too fast, and I feel like there is always somewhere to go, someone to see or something to do. But, I relish them all the same.

This particular weekend, one of my best friend's sisters recently got married in Mexico and she and her new husband were having a wedding reception for everyone who couldn't make it to their destination wedding. We were able to squeeze in a few quick visits with our family, talk with Zephyr's, our stationary vendor for the wedding, and visit with friends. We were supposed to take our engagement photos on Sunday. Our photographer, Laura, one of our friends from high school recently started her own photography company, The Studio Noir. She lives in Boston now, but was in town at the same time as us, so we wanted to take pictures, but the weather did not work out. :( I was bummed.

Coincidentally, my co-worker, whose girlfriend is a wedding photographer, told me that she was hosting a workshop for Jesh De Rox, an amazing Canadian photographer who is known for his relationship- and connection-driven approach to photography. They needed another couple to model for the workshop attendees, so Bryan and I volunteered! We get to keep all of the photos from the session at no charge. I love that we'll be able to see pictures through so many different "eyes." We didn't really know what to expect at the beginning -- we knew it wasn't going to be a typical engagement session. But, the photographers had techniques for getting us to emit certain emotions. We played games, we whispered into each other's ears, we shared memories with each other, we laughed. It was fun to stare into Bryan's eyes and tell him all of the things I love about him, and to have him whisper in my ear the moment when he was the most proud of me. Whenever we had to be serious, I couldn't be -- I was always smiling! I suppose that's not the worst thing in the world, but when we were supposed to be the "intense" couple and imagining leaving each other for three years, Bryan almost had tears in his eyes and there I was, with a goofy grin! Oh well. I think the pictures will be beautiful and natural and I can't wait to share them.

And, we are still house-hunting. We went to see more places last night, a couple of them for the second time. I think I'm going to end up with a broken heart after all is said and done -- I realized today that we can't afford any of our three favorite places :( Kind of a let down, but, that being said, there are so many properties that we do really like and that we can afford. We're going to keep looking and see what happens. It is fun to see what's out there and I love imagining life together in our new home!

That's all for now. I am lately addicted to Friday Night Lights, and brought Bryan on board. A rare occurence, given that Bryan usually HATES all of the TV I watch. We are almost done with season three, so I bid adieu to go watch the final episodes. Then, off to bed -- boot camp in the morning at 5:30!
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Let's Try This Again

Well, I started this blog during a rare lull in my life – not much going on with work or outside of it. That lasted for about as long as it took me to write my first post, and POOF – it’s been more than a month since I’ve been back. I’m OK with this, especially because no one actually knows that this blog exists yet (I’m waiting until I have a good library of content before starting my marketing campaign).

In any case, May brought a lot of exciting things for us. In the beginning of the month, Bryan and I went home to Iowa City for Christine’s (his sister) graduation from nursing school. Obviously, this is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but we were especially proud of her because after she got pregnant with Alydia, our niece, she had to take a hiatus from school. As soon as she could, she started back up and worked her butt off to graduate. And she did. I’m helping her out with her résumé and job application materials, and hopefully, she’ll land a full-time position somewhere in Iowa.

The same weekend, my dad made a surprising announcement: He’s engaged, too. He has been dating his fiancée, Denise, for the past year or so and he popped the question while they were on vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Of course, I am so happy for my dad, as I know he has been lonely since my parents divorced several years ago. My dad is the best and he deserves the best, so despite some circumstances that I won’t get into right now, I want him to be forever happy and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

At the beginning of this month, Bryan and I started our official search for our first home! It has been an eye-opening experience looking at all of the properties available here in the city. (Yes, I said the city. Try as I might, I can’t persuade Bryan to make the move to the ‘burbs quite yet; and, if I’m being honest, I don’t think I am ready yet either. But I digress.) I’ve learned the market pretty quickly – the prices and quality of homes differ drastically based on the neighborhood in which you’re looking, and the more places we find, the more it’s looking like we’ll end up in Lincoln Square. Which, I might add, is totally fine with me. The neighborhood is up-and-coming, with lots to do, drink, eat and see. We’re looking at 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condos and have found some AMAZING properties. The trick is going to be the type of loan we get. Since Bryan was in the military, we are eligible for a VA loan – the trick is that only Bryan can be on the loan, which limits how much we are approved for. In any case, I’m exciting about what we’ve seen so far and can’t wait to find the place we’ll call home.

Then over Memorial Day Weekend, Bryan and I took an “innversary” vacation. The last time we took a trip, it was to California in September and we got engaged. Eight months later, we headed to Boston to celebrate one-year until our wedding. I’ve never been before and it was so much fun! Boston is awesome, with so much to do and see. Bryan has been trying to get me out there forever; he has always loved the city (and the Red Sox). We arrived on Thursday night and went to dinner at a cute French-fusion restaurant on Newbury Street. Friday, we spent the day sightseeing and went to the Red Sox game on Friday night. Even though they lost, Fenway was a super fun experience. Saturday, we did more sightseeing and then went down to Long Wharf and grabbed some drinks on the water before going back to Fenway and meeting my best friend’s boyfriend and brother after the Sox game. Sunday, we took the ferry out to Martha’s Vineyard for the day. We rented bikes and rode up and down the beach, along the ocean and to a few neighboring towns. Then we grabbed some drinks at The Sand Bar – self-explanatory what that was. I proceeded to make get the worst sunburn of my 26 years of life. I don’t know why I didn’t think to put on sunscreen, but I didn’t, and boy, did I pay for it. I couldn’t even lift my arms up without pain from the skin in my shoulders creasing. In any case, it was a great trip, and one I’ll never forget.

And now, suddenly, it’s June, and we are officially less than a year until our wedding! I’m not going to lie, as soon as May 29 hit, I had a small panic attack at the amount of work we have ahead of us! But, we are really far ahead, so that’s just my Type A personality getting the best of me. We have pretty much all of our vendors booked with deposits. This weekend, we’re heading home to take our engagement photos and meet with our stationary vendor. Of course, I have no idea what to wear in our photos, so that’s my latest item to stress about… always something!

I remember back in the day when I wrote in a journal and at the end, I promised myself (or my journal) that I would write again soon. And then, one year later, my next journal entry would start out, “I can’t believe it’s been so long…” In any case, I do vow to write as frequently as possible, so this time I will “write again soon.”
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Hello, World!

In a recent conversation with my fiance, Bryan, I was going on (and on) about how I couldn't wait to start writing my first book. He asked, "What are you waiting for?" I said, "I don't know what to write about." He told me, "Just start writing."

So, here I am.

Writing is my forte -- or so I'm told. And, even if it's not my greatest strength, it is my passion. I may not have much to say and my opinion may not matter in most cases. But, on the other hand, maybe I do and maybe it does. Either way, I figured I just needed to get my "creative juices flowing," and start putting words down on paper; er, the computer screen.

I've got enough going on in life right now to have stuff to write about. I just started a new job, I recently got engaged, and Bryan and I just started looking for our first house. All of those things, coupled with stories from my crazy (and lovable) family and friends, plus regular day-to-day happenings...well, I've a lot to say.

So, here we go...
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