Monday, August 30, 2010

Robyn's Birthday

We've been kind of busy lately, and blogging has unfortunately been on the back burner, which drives me crazy because there's so much I want to blog about! I seriously just need to quit my job so I'll have time for all the things I really want to be doing. Seriously. I really could fill up my day with gardening, crafting, photography, blogging, exercising and volunteering, in no particular order. Someday soon I hope my dream to be a full time bum will become a reality!

One of the things that kept us super busy the weekend before last and the week preceding it was planning and hosting our friend Robyn's surprise 30th birthday party. Robyn's husband Dan and our friend Faith had the idea to have a fancy cocktail party, and so Faith and our friend Jessica and I spent a couple of weeks planning the big event. We got together a couple of weeks before and decided on the layout of the basement, planned the menu, and schemed a way to get Robyn here for the surprise. The next week we did lots of grocery and supply shopping and primping and cleaning the house. On the day of the big event, Chad and I cleaned and moved furniture, Faith and Jess and I cooked, Dan sent over the drinks and a bartender, and then Faith and I decorated the basement with balloons and candles. We were so busy all day that by the time people started arriving at our house at 7, I was still wearing a t-shirt and shorts and had never even gotten around to blow drying my hair!

Getting Robyn to get dressed up and come to our house was a bit of a challenge. The ruse was that Chad and I and she and Dan were going to a really nice dinner, but Dan had been so adamant that they pick us up so that we could go to this restaurant she wasn't very excited about, she definitely started to suspect something by the end of the week. When she got to our house and saw cars belonging to her family and friends across the street, the jig was definitely up. Although she wasn't really very surprised about the party by the time she arrived, hopefully she was still surprised by how many friends and family members (about 30) were at our house and by all the food, drinks and decorations! I think the basement looked pretty awesome by the time we were done with it! In this picture you can kind of see how we had it arranged and had the balloons and candles everywhere.

Our friend Megan's husband Tom took pictures during the evening and did a really fantastic job. It was so nice to be able to enjoy myself without having to worry about capturing the memories, but that also meant that I was actually in entirely too many pictures--something I'm totally not used to! It also meant that my ridiculous dancing has now been shared with all of Facebook, which I'm actually not that upset about since the pictures are so flipping hysterical. Tom put a whole series of dancing pictures together to make a silly video, and if you're on Facebook you totally have to check this out!

Of course, since I love to dance any time I possibly can, I had a blast cutting a rug in my basement. I think everyone else had a pretty great time too, since there was so much terrific food (including gourmet cupcakes by my friend Leigh Ann), lots of fancy drinks, fun music, good friends and also a TV for the boys, who were clearly not interested in dancing.

There are tons more cool and fun pictures in a short slideshow I put together on Snapfish using Tom's pics, and then a bunch more pictures in Tom's full Snapfish album. Hopefully you can see them without having to log into the website. They are just too funny--great shots of a great evening!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Birthday Weirdo

I felt like a horrible doggy parent this morning when I woke up and realized that Hope's observed birthday (aka the anniversary of the day we brought her home) was yesterday and I'd totally forgotten. It was just such a busy weekend we hadn't even thought of doing anything special for our crazy/sweet little girl!Add Image
Hope has now been with us for exactly five years, but sometimes it's really hard to even remember our family before this bizarre yet beautiful girl was a part of it. It's even harder to believe that three of those five years she's basically been living on borrowed time, since she's had surgery three times in the last three years for cancer. Hope is nothing if not tough as nails, and is most certainly the toughest dog in the Luce household! When I told my brother earlier today that we were celebrating her 10th birthday (although she could be anywhere from 9-12 he was quite surprised, because in most ways she definitely doesn't seem like an older dog. She still runs and jumps with great exuberance and reckless abandon.

With that said, in one other way Hope has definitely started to show her age. About six months ago we started noticing that she was getting harder to wake up in the morning and after naps. We eventually realized that her hearing was beginning to go, and in the few months since she's gone almost completely deaf. At this point she will only respond to a loud whistle, a clap or one of the other dogs barking. We're trying to incorporate sign language as much as possible to communicate with her, but let's just say that deafness has made this weird dog even weirder!

Speaking of her weirdness, this really has nothing to do with her deafness and more to do with her pica, but this morning I had to grab the camera to capture a quick video in honor of her birthday. She's been on a mushroom kick lately, and early in the mornings when there's a bunch of new mushrooms popping up she loves to snack on them. You have to run out into the yard to stop her from snarfing them all up, since of course she can't hear you when to tell her to stop (we're working a lot on the sign for "no"). This morning I didn't have the heart to run out and scold her, because she was just so cute and looked like she was having so much fun mushroom hunting! Let's hope we don't have any barfing later because of it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Beta Test #3

This last week was a busy one and I have lots to share in the next few days, but for now I'll just share a quick link to the latest episode of my brother's web series The Beta Test, which actually came out just over a week ago. If you missed it, you can click here to watch it--just be advised that there's definitely a little adult content! It's a great episode with a super ending, and I'm so excited to see what happens in the next one, which should be out this Friday. To follow along, become a fan on The Beta Test Facebook page or The Beta Test YouTube page!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Today I went to JibJab to look for a funny email card for my friend Robyn's 30th birthday (Happy Birthday, Rob!) and I came across yet another JibJab video that I couldn't resist. This one is especially timely since last night at Chad's softball game I was talking with our friend Mark (aka "G") about movies, and he mentioned disliking anything fantasy/science fiction related. He specifically mentioned that he hasn't seen any Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Matrix movies, so I thought this Matrix synopsis would be helpful for him. I also thought it would be appropriate for him to star as the bad guy. This one's for you, G. :)

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Photo Session

I was initially thinking that my last California post would be about the lunch we had before we left for the airport, but then I decided that our lunch probably wasn't really blog worthy. It was a good lunch, don't get me wrong, but just not super eventful. We walked down to Fatburger from Eric's and I had a great turkey burger while Chad attacked a gigantic burger of monstrous proportions. It was yummy and I liked it lots better than In and Out Burger because there was a great selection and the meat seemed like better quality--but that's just me.

Anyway, while I was looking through the pictures I took of the family at lunch, which were generally pretty horrible because the back lighting was really bad at our outdoor table (which also made them a good Photoshop exercise in how to sort of salvage blown out backgrounds), I came across a series of pictures that my dear husband took when I asked him to take a picture of my brother and me. Instead of taking a picture, he pretty much just held down the shutter release continuously. This was the ridiculous result.

I clearly wasn't ready, and I had no idea my brother was pretending to pick my nose.

Still not ready and completely unaware.

I'm finally smiling instead of talking, not realizing Eric's still picking my nose.

Okay, finally a good one...

...and one more good one.

Now I'm realizing Chad's getting out of control.

Oh boy...

Oh jeesh...

Oh my...

You have to laugh at my hubby's photography skills!

Time with my brother is always entertaining! I'm so glad we were able to go visit him last month!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Hotel

I really and truly am almost done yapping about our trip to California. I was actually going to make this my last post, but I just noticed a few more pictures from our last day that might need their own place in this little web world. I promise that the next CA post will be the very last, and you will then be able to get back to reading the regular, everyday drivel about our lives.

So our hotel in LA was called The Mondrian, which took me all weekend to remember how to pronounce correctly, although I'm not sure why it was so hard for me to figure out. We stayed at this particular hotel because it was in Eric's neighborhood (within walking distance) and as usual, I got a great deal on it on Priceline. As most people know, when you "name your own price" on Priceline you don't see the hotel first--you only choose the location and how many stars you want--so I didn't really know until after I "won" this 4-star hotel that it wasn't really our kind of place overall. It was super swanky and ultra modern, but the room itself was not very functional at all, and the decor was just downright weird. The coffee table had a hand (yes, a hand) sculpture sitting on a glass tray, which hopefully gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. The only super cool thing in our room was this gigantic mirror separating the sleeping area from the rest of the room. At first we though it was just a weird unnecessary mirror--then we realized it was actually a second TV, which could watch a different channel than the first TV. As you can imagine, Chad was in heaven laying on a comfy bed where he could watch two different sporting events at the same time. The only other cool thing about our room was the view, which looked out over the "outdoor living room" and pool, which I'll talk about a little more in a second.

Before I show you the pool area, let me just explain a little more why this wasn't our kind of hotel. Really, it was kind of about us not really fitting in there, not that we really fit in (nor want to fit in) most places in LA. Let's just say that this place was especially posh, and every time we were coming and going there were women in tiny mini-skirts and ridiculous high heels prancing in and out of the club/lounge/restaurant with their dates/husbands/clients. Oh yes, there were hookers, and yes I'm sure. These two 55-year-old guys were coming in with these two girls dressed quite skankily that couldn't have been more than 20. It was really quite disturbing and quite sad, and it really made it quite clear that this wasn't the kind of nightlife we were interested in!

For the most part we really didn't care because we weren't there to spend time hanging out at the hotel anyway. However, there was one part of the hotel I wish hadn't been overrun with people way too hip for the room, because I definitely would have spent way more time there. We could see the pool area from our room and it was always packed over the weekend, but on Monday morning when we went to check out we walked down and lounged around in the "outdoor living room" a bit, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I can see why people stay there even if they're not into that night life--this pool was so fabulous and the whole outdoor area couldn't have been more relaxing! I took quite a few more pictures which you should check out here. It was an amazingly beautiful place!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Busy B-Day

I didn't reach my goal of finishing my Cali posts today, but at least I have a good excuse. It was a busy day as the hubby and I took off work to celebrate my 30-something birthday together. We walked the dogs, did a few things around the house, ran some errands and had lunch at First Watch, did some furniture shopping, did some more furniture shopping and then moved our new furniture into place! After that we went downtown for dinner and finished off with some Sylas and Maddy's. It was a pretty terrific day.

Thankfully, we did not celebrate with a pinata. Who knew it could be so dangerous!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Landscape

This post isn't really about anything in particular--it's just an effort to share a bunch of "urban landscape" pictures that I took for my photography class. The assignment the week I was in LA was landscapes and urban landscapes, so I was in the perfect location to try and capture some good shots!

The first ten pics were taken as Chad and Eric and I walked up to the grocery store on Sunday evening (which is up Crescent Heights Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard), and then the rest of them were walking down Santa Monica Boulevard, which is just a couple of blocks south of Eric's apartment. The pictures aren't terrific, especially since I've run out of time for editing and they're straight out of the camera, but I think there are a few cool ones!

As you might have noticed, Santa Monica is an especially interesting street, with a ton of old Russian delis and bakeries mixed right in with the restaurants, clubs and porn theaters. I especially like the bizarre contrast of the sign all in Russian with Will Ferrell jumping over the top on some movie billboard. My brother's neighborhood is definitely a unique one--at least compared to ours!

The Hike

This weekend I’m really going to try to finish up blogging about our trip to California. My goal is to complete the last few posts by Monday—a mere (cough) month after we left!

After our lovely brunch on Sunday morning and a subsequent change of clothes, we headed up to Griffith Park, which is one of Eric’s favorite hiking/running spots. I was super excited, mostly because I knew it would be a great place to get some good pictures. Of course I was also looking forward to getting some exercise, spending time with my dear family, seeing the hiking spot Eric always talks about, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Our goal was to hike up to the Hollywood sign, which is apparently about a 7 mile trek round trip. There are several ways to get up the hills, some which are a little more challenging and treacherous than others. We started out on a pretty wide trail with a fairly low incline, but soon the California heat started kicking in, which made the incline feel a lot steeper than it was! The temperature wasn't especially high (probably only around 80), but that So Cal sun was intense!

Since Mom isn't able to tolerate the heat very well and wasn't really prepared to walk 7 miles this summer (as opposed to two summers ago), a mile or so up the hill we decided to leave her in a shady spot for a rest. The remaining four of us continued up the path on our own, but after a little while Eric went back down and walked with Mom a bit more and sent Dad, Chad and me on our way. There wasn't much in the way of trail signs in Griffith Park, so Eric gave us the best directions he could and we headed up into the hills.

We followed Eric's instructions and headed off the main trail to a more interesting and difficult smaller trail. It was definitely a more challenging hike, with lots of rocks and steep drop offs. Dad actually slipped on one of these rocks and it looked for a moment like he might fall right off the side of a cliff right in front of us--I about had a heart attack. After Dad's near fall Chad and I were definitely were a lot more careful as we went--although I don't think my ambitious father was!

I should mention that my dad was not only undaunted by the heights and challenging terrain, but he was also completely unfazed by the 7 mile trek, since he's walked even farther recently training for our upcoming 3-Day in Washington, DC. My dad is in incredible shape for someone who's nearing 70!

Anyway, after we'd probably gone another mile, in the approximately 30-45 minutes since we'd left my brother, we were heading along this tiny path, not really sure if we were even going the right direction at all. Just as we're thinking it would have been really nice to have cell service so we could call Eric for directions, we round this corner and glance up the hill to see a guy sitting cross-legged on a clearing who kind of looked like he was meditating. As we got closer, we realized that the guy was actually my brother, which was quite the shock since we'd left him so far behind, going in the opposite direction! As it turned out, he was not meditating but rather recovering, since he had walked Mom safely to near the bottom, and then turned around and RAN straight up the side of the hill on a super steep trail so that he could literally cut us off at the pass. He'd only gotten there minutes before us, so his timing and his stamina was pretty incredible!

The four of us finished the last mile or so of the hike together, and made it to the Hollywood sign for some incredible views and pictures before heading back down through the hills. We took a slightly more challenging route on the way down, with lots of rocks and sharp bushes, so we were fairly pooped when we got to the bottom and met back up with mom.

That evening we walked up to Trader Joe's to get groceries, and grilled some awesome steaks and other stuff at Eric's apartment, so it was a great end to a fun day!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Beta Test #2

Tonight I really intended to continue blogging about our California trip, but most of the evening ended up being filled by pottery painting and dinner with a bunch of good friends. That really worked out fine though, since I have something else way more awesome to share instead: the second episode of my brother's web series The Beta Test!

Apparently it was finally posted to their website a few days ago, but I didn't even know until this morning since I hadn't checked the site or Facebook for several days. Now I've subscribed to their Youtube page so that (hopefully) I'll be notified as soon as a new episode airs. I'm so looking forward to it!

If that made no sense, be sure to watch the trailer and episode 1 on Youtube as well!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Trip to Cloud Nine

Old 97's show number nine actually put me on cloud nine the other night, and I didn't wipe the smile off my face for two days. I'll try to blog a little more about the show itself later, but for now I just have to share yet another awesome small world story. When we bought our tickets for the show several weeks ago, we also bought tickets for Chad's brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Molly, who met us at the show Thursday night. Molly and I were talking about a friend of hers, I think her name is Ann, who also invited them to a different concert over the weekend. Molly mentioned to Ann that it was their lucky week since they'd already been invited to see Old 97's, at which point Ann said, "Oh, my cousin is in that band." Now when Molly told me she thought Ann's cousin was the bass player, I seriously thought she must be mistaken, since it just seemed too unreal that she would actually be friends with someone literally related to an Old 97. There were two other bands playing that night so I kind of though Ann's cousin was probably someone in one of the other groups, and then I sort of forgot the whole conversation.

A little later when Chad went into Grinders to get a drink, he came back out and told me that Murry Hammond, the bass player for the 97's, was actually right next to him in the restaurant. I was obviously disappointed that I hadn't gone along to get a glimpse, but then just a few minutes later, Molly came up to tell me that Ann was eating with Murry and her family in the restaurant! Molly had told Ann that I was a superfan, so Ann insisted that I should come in and meet Murry in person. I seriously didn't think I would at first, because I didn't want to seem like a crazed stalker (Chad keeps reminding me there's a fine line between superfan and stalker), but Jonathan and Molly kept encouraging me, saying that Ann assured them that it would be totally fine and not a big deal. They finally talked me into it and we went inside the restaurant and over to the table where Murry was sitting. I seriously thought for a second I might faint!

After Molly introduced me to Ann, she turned around asked Murry if he would mind meeting a big fan, and he got up from the table and came over to say hi. He seriously could not have been more kind, gracious and friendly, despite the fact that I was a babbling bumbling idiot who probably sounded slightly obsessed, which of course, I am. I don't really remember what I babbled about initially, but it might have been something about my brother living in West Hollywood, since I knew Murry lived in the LA area. He probably really thought I was a stalker at that point since I knew where he lived! Molly totally bailed me out since she had her wits about her, because she had enough sense to ask Murry if he would mind taking a picture with me. I'm so glad she did because I was so starstruck I don't think I would have thought of it. Even if I had remembered a picture, I don't think I would have been brave enough to ask!

Seriously, at this point I just went completely loopy, and I started babbling about how many years ago when we saw them at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, he and Ken (the lead guitarist) came out to watch the opening act (John Eddie, who we became big fans of that night) and I took a picture of the back of their heads because I was so excited to see them and that it would be nice to actually have a picture that wasn't just the back of his head this time. Seriously. He was probably terrified at this point that he was taking a picture with a crazy person.

Fortunately for Murry I'm not crazy--I was just extremely excited. Like really really excited. Like abnormally excited, which you can probably tell from this picture.

As my brother told me yesterday after seeing this shot on Facebook, I'm smiling so big it looks like my face is about to explode. Thankfully it didn't, and I lived to tell you this tale about the time I met Murry Hammond of Old 97's fame.