Friday, March 22, 2013

How I'm Combating Dinner Boredom

This past weekend, I decided I was totally over the meals we've been having for dinner. Too many frozen pasta dinners and pizzas lately had put me over the edge.

Neither of us are big on cooking, but I decided the best way to combat my dinner boredom was to bite the bullet and track down some new recipes to try.

On Monday, I chose two recipes and picked up the ingredients I needed. I made The Daily Dish's Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos on Tuesday night (and we had leftovers for lunch the next day!). Then last night, I tried Skinny Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese (plenty of leftovers too!).

Taquitos and mac & cheese aren't too far out of our comfort zones, but these dinners weren't coming from a box or the freezer. Although taking the time to plan meals and try new recipes isn't an original idea, it was just the change I needed to mix things up at dinnertime.

Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Club: The Plague Tales

Our last book club meeting took place at N's apartment. Her boyfriend, M., is a professional chef and treated us to a taco dinner, complete with chicken, shrimp, and all the toppings. And for dessert, we nibbled on Girl Scout cookies (okay, I think I ate about six!). It was a Friday night so we all hung out around the dining room table and caught up for awhile.

As for the book, Little Bee, our group had mixed feelings about it. For some, the story and characterswhile powerful and interestingdidn't resonate enough. I thought it was well-written and the format of two narrators supplied multiple perspectives to an unusual storyline. The characters were unique but somewhat unlikeable. Overall, not bad but not one of my favorites.

Next up, we're reading one of the books suggested here on the blog (thanks for the recommendation, Feisty Optimist!): The Plague Tales by Ann Benson. It's a longer one, but with the way our schedules worked out, we have couple extra weeks between meetings this time.

From School Library Journal via
First time novelist Benson tells a parallel tale of 14th- and 21st-century England, centered on the ever-fascinating Bubonic Plague. Alejandro Canches, a 14th-century Spanish physician, becomes the Papal appointment to the English court of Edward III. He is consigned the task of keeping the court alive during the Plague years beginning in 1348. The descriptions of treatments, daily life, and death during these terrible times are fascinating. Alternating chapters take place in 2005, a few years after the "Outbreak" and the end of antibiotic effectiveness against microbes. This is a world of biocops who shoot to kill if the infected try to escape, where transatlantic travel must be done in sterile gowns and masks, and "body printing" eliminates any semblance of privacy. Physician Janie Crow, in England for mandatory retraining since the drastic drop in population has rendered her surgical skills obsolete, accidentally unleashes the 14th-century plague bacillus on an ill-prepared London. This adventure grabs readers and carries them back and forth in time on the trail of the deadly bacteria. The blend of historical color and current biotechnology trends will have great appeal to young adults. It works as historical fiction, science fiction, or a technology thriller.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baby Registry Advice... Help!

I might be a little ahead of the game, but I'm starting to gather my thoughts as far as a baby registry. While my showers are still three months away, I'll need to have everything in place by the time the hosts ask where I'm registered for invitation purposes.

18 weeks yesterday. Not the best picture, but you can see the bump is growing!
If you haven't created a registry before, it's kind of overwhelming. Personally, I think the baby registry is tougher to navigate than a wedding one. When we registered for our wedding, it was more "I like that pretty china pattern" than "what is safest/has the best features/is super helpful for baby?" Babies seem to require more research.

But I also know that you simply can't anticipate everything. While the wedding registry items were things we chose for our own use, the baby registry includes items for a baby who may have particular opinions and preferences. And we won't know until the baby arrives what he/she'll likeor what we'll like. To continue with the wedding registry comparison, I know what kind of plates I like, but I'm not sure which type of swaddle blankets or baby carrier I'll prefer. I've never used those kinds of products before (at least not on a regular basis).

Don't worry though, I'm not going nuts over here. My plan is to get informed via friends' recommendations, online reviews, and some other Internet browsing and then just make a choice. We'll get what we get and figure it out as we go. There's no such thing as perfection when it comes to something like preparing for a baby. It's just not possible. So like many times in life, I have to simply do my best, do what I think is right, and see what happens.

This post is a long, winding way of asking for your advice. Moms or moms-to-be out there who have tips on registering: please feel free to share your thoughts! I've received some amazing recommendations from a few mommy friends of mine, but I'm open to any and all advice at this pointproducts/brands/models/quantities as well as general tips on building a registry, best places to register, etc. I'm in the info-gathering stage here!

Which items could you not live without?
Which products were a waste of money?
What do you wish you had registered for originally?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why Storytelling Matters

There's a line on my writing website that states, "Everyone has a story to tell." I truly believe that. Each of us has a unique background, perspective, experienceand sharing that story with others is the key to building relationships and exchanging information.

In practically every writing workshop I've participated in, we've talked about the idea "Show; don't tell." If a writer can show how or why something happened, the reader can better understand what's being described. A person or character is no longer a description; that person becomes a living being.

When I come across small businesses online, I always love to read their stories. Reading a bunch of "marketing speak" isn't fulfilling in those cases. Finding out why people started their businesses, where they come from, and what they believe in means more than a list of product features or a bunch of fancy titles.

Back when I worked at a media agency, we would sometimes build presentations like a story. We would give specific examples, weave together qualitative and quantitative information, describe a person who represented our target audience (with a name and everything!), and structure our presentation to reflect our process and tell a story.

In each of these examples above, stories make connections. Stories draw people in and allow us to explore something deeper and more meaningful.

If you want to learn more about storytelling, you're in luck! Sarah and I will be delving into the topic of storytelling this month in our Create.Compose.Communicate newsletters. Whether you write for work, on your blog, or in your journal, we have some great information and inspiration to share.

Sign up here if you haven't already! The first newsletter of the month goes out tomorrow (Thursday).

Check out Sarah's blog, Inspiration-Driven Life, for her thoughts on storytelling.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Around the House

The snow's been coming down all day today. Because it's winter and I work from home, I've been spending plenty of time inside our condo. But now that I'm feeling better, I can eat like I normally would, I've ventured out to a few yoga classes, and I'm getting items checked off my "prep for baby" list.

The new rug for the nursery arrived last weekwe're going with a navy, turquoise, and white theme. Our second bedroom is about 8x14 feet and used to contain a twin bed, my jewelry armoire, my desk, a dresser and the printer. We've had to think about what's staying and what's going.

In my excitement to see the rug in its new home, I folded up the bedding and dragged the twin mattress, box spring, and jewelry armoire out of the room. Scott and I rolled out the 6x9 rug once he got home from work and then used our new vacuum on it. Next up: cleaning out the desk and moving it out. I usually work from the dining room table or couch, and the extra space will be much-needed once the baby gear arrives.

I got Scott tickets to a Blackhawks game for his birthday, so we went on Friday night. So exciting to watch them play live, especially with the current streak! We grabbed a quick dinner at Elephant & Castle before, and I got fish and chips, something I definitely wouldn't have been able to eat a couple of weeks ago.

On Saturday, we cooked fajitas for dinner (chicken is finally sounding okay again!) and watched Argo (so good!). I've been trying to eat healthier without going crazy about it, meaning more fruits and veggies, yogurt, cereal, and other yummy food. Don't worry thoughcookies, mac and cheese, and pizza are still making an appearance on my plate.

Yesterday's doctor's appointment went well. Everything is on track so far. It's so funny how hearing the heartbeat was almost surprising. I know there's a baby growing in there, but it's still hard to believe sometimes! I'll be 17 weeks tomorrow... wow.


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