Monday, January 31, 2011

Return of the Jedi

I realize the whole Star Wars trilogy is getting a little old and losing its humor, but I feel compelled to finish what I've started. Plus, this lame post will give me a an extra day to work on an "important" story from our weekend. There are at least a couple of moments in the short clip that made me chuckle, so I hope you find it at least a little bit humorous.

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I really thought the highlights were a) Darth Vader's reaction to getting his arm chopped off, b) Hans Chad's flailing arms when running away from the impending explosion, and c) Darth Dad's hair at the very end. Sweet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back

When Eric and I started working on the second Star Wars movie we immediately had a casting dilemma with Lando Calrissian. After searching through tons of pictures on my computer we finally selected Eric's friend Bob, whom I had met and photographed on Eric's 40th birthday. We thought Bob would be perfect for the part...because in the picture I had of him he was facing the camera head on. Our standards are pretty specific in the world of Jib Jab casting.

Even with what looked to be the perfect head shot I had to re-edit his face like 5 times before getting the size and centering just right. The first few times we "shot" the scene his mustache was on his left cheek and his hairline was right at his eyebrows. It was certainly funnier that way, but since I'm quite the perfectionist I decided to go back and try again. I hope you enjoy the final product!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family Visit and Football

I've been a big blogging slacker the last few days since I've been enjoying lots of time with my visiting brother and mother. It's been great having Eric here, and I'm glad Mom was able to come stay with us so that she could have more quality time with him too. We've done lots of lounging and relaxing, along with watching a few movies and important sporting events. While the KU game didn't go as we had hoped (boo, Texas!!), the AFC Championship game had a much better outcome (yea, Steelers!)!!

While Mom, Eric and I watched the Steelers game downstairs, my obsessed and superstitious husband watched it up in our bedroom. Since he had watched the last Steelers win by himself on that TV, he decided it would be good luck to do so again. Seriously. Although the rest of us thought his decision was slightly goofy, we did kind of appreciate it since it made our viewing of the game lots more relaxing and enjoyable. As most of our friends know, Chad gets a wee bit intense and emotional when his Steelers are playing. Since he kept his stress and excitement contained upstairs, we enjoyed watching the win calmly and peacefully in the basement.

Thanks to the quiet and stress-free environment, Eric and I were even able to cast and complete the second installment in the Star Wars trilogy during the commercials! Stay tuned for our next exciting and entertaining adventure!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow, Beautiful Snow

Yesterday we had our second snowstorm of the year, and I think I was one of the few people in Lawrence who was actually excited about it! It started snowing around noon yesterday and snowed continually until early this morning, which means that we had about 7 new inches on the ground when we woke up this morning. The snow from our first storm hadn't all melted yet, so there was probably more like 8 or 9 inches in our yard.

Our second big snow reminded me that I hadn't shared the pictures from our first big snow, which I finally started editing last night. Then in a shocking turn of events, I couldn't resist going out to take more pictures today. I know you're probably thinking that if you've seen one snow you've seen them all, but today when the sun came out with all that new snow on the ground, it just looked so totally different than last week! The snow was smooth and sparkly and just gorgeous! It actually turned out to be a nice afternoon too--sunshine and 30 degrees made for a nice walk with the pups!

Hope you enjoy just a few of the pictures from last week and earlier today!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A New Hope

Just in case you've never seen Star Wars, today I'm providing a wonderful synopsis done by some incredibly talented actors, just because it's Tuesday.

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Good stuff, if I do say so myself. I particularly enjoyed my husbands sideburns. I briefly toyed with the idea of casting him as Luke since people used to think he looked like young Skywalker as a kid, but since I was Princess Leia, that might be slightly awkward later on down the road. Of course it might be slightly awkward with my brother as Luke too, but whatever--at least that's true to the story! Also, I must say that I had a difficult time casting the role of Obi-Wan. I had originally chosen my dad, but then realized that if there were to be a sequel, my dad would need to be Darth Vader. So I ended up selecting my friend Nate, because a) he's a big fan of the genre, and b) I had tons of pictures of him to use after making a slideshow for his 40th birthday a few months ago. I knew there was a reason I still had those pics on my computer!

Hope you enjoyed the performance! There may be a sequel in the works, so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

White Elephant 2010

One of our friends from our small group reminded me last week that I hadn't shared any pics from our annual white elephant gift exchange this year. Our group's Christmas party is such a wonderful tradition that I love going to and I love blogging about, which is obvious since I've blogged about it for the last 4 years in a row. Although I'm obviously a little late this year, I didn't want to break my white elephant blogging streak!

Our friends Pat and Kristin hosted the party this year, and as usual, we had a ridiculous amount of yummy food. After we all stuffed ourselves while socializing (or maybe I'm the only one who stuffed myself) we got to the main event of the evening, which was of course the gift exchange. Brian and LaRisa were attending their very first small group Christmas this year, so we had explained to them earlier in the week that they were to give some item from their house that they wanted to get rid of. We strongly encourage the gifting of crap at this particular party.

Although Charlie and Danny were attending their second Christmas party this year, we should have reminded them of our gift exchange rules as well, since for the second year in a row, Danny has given the most ridiculously awesome item that everyone starts stealing immediately. Last year it was the paintball gun; this year he gave an electronic drum set (which I totally wanted) with a pair of nunchucks with a pair of tickets to a KU basketball game! Apparently they had received the tickets as a gift but couldn't go, so they just stuck them with this already awesome gift that was supposed to suck!

Brian opened the super gift first, and you can see how excited he was--and that's before he knew the box contained basketball tickets as well! The very next person stole it from him, and then lucky for him, his wife LaRisa stole it for the final allowed steal! I haven't asked if they've actually used the drums, but I know they were thrilled to go to the KU game!

Probably the next coolest gift was this really nice serving set with a pitcher and four glasses. Clearly I was surprised to get something so nice in this gift exchange, and obviously LaRisa and Cara think it's pretty neat too! Unfortunately Kristin stole the set immediately, but I'm guessing she'll let me borrow it sometime if I need to.

There were some other pretty awesome gifts, but in a while elephant awesome sort of way and not in an awesome awesome sort of way. For example, we had this lovely pink rose pillow that Cara so craftily made from an old prom dress. Of course it was perfect for Chad, since everyone knows if there are five words that fit my husband, they are lovely, pink, rose, prom and dress. Ha--that's just a little joke. :)

We also had this incredibly hideous Tiffany & Co. lamp. Um, yeah. That's a light up mermaid. Pretty awesome. Beth and James actually received that as a serious gift at some point!

There were obviously tons of other great gifts too, but they weren't all instant classics like these! As always, we had lots of laughs and tons of fun with these wonderful friends at Christmas.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This morning I'm getting ready to head to Topeka for a day with my mom, but before I jumped in the shower I was thinking about bundling up and taking the dogs for a quick walk since they didn't get one yesterday. I hadn't heard the wind today so I thought maybe it was a little nicer outside. I pulled up and saw this:

Ummm, no. Sorry pups, but I will not be taking you out today. A trip to the backyard will have to suffice.

Speaking of winter, did anyone notice the new header I made yesterday morning? All the snow around here reminded me that it was time to change my seasonal blog colors! Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Perfect Snow

Yesterday was the first snow day of the season here in Lawrence, and even though I was completely sick of the snow by the end of last winter, I was so happy to see it again this year! It was so beautiful here yesterday--the perfect winter day, in my opinion. There was no wind, the temp was right around freezing, and the snow was falling gently all day long. I couldn't resist taking a bunch of pictures of course, but I haven't had the chance to upload them quite yet.

In addition to the quick photo session I also shot a little video, just to capture the falling action of the beautiful flakes. Since Celtic loves the snow he came along, as did Fresco, who was also excited for the first snowfall of the season. Celtic would stay out in the snow for hours if you'd let him--it's like he's energized and invigorated by the cold. We used to joke about him wanting to grow up to be a sled dog when he was little, and even today he acts like a 5 year old again in the snow. I'm guessing now the cold and snow is kind of like an icepack for his entire arthritic little body. Check out the speed on our adorable little 13-year-old!

Notice who's missing? Hope was invited to come outside as well, but politely declined since she despises cold weather. In fact, when we took a quick walk with all of them later in the afternoon, Hope was so anxious to get inside she was outpacing her brothers by a long shot. Normally she's our best leash walker who stays right beside us, but yesterday she was pulling like she hadn't pulled in years. By the time we neared the house I was having to jog to keep up with her, so about three houses away I just let go of her leash (something we never do with our scent hounds) and watched her sprint for the front door. I half expected her to peel off to the first house she passed just to get back indoors, but thankfully she wasn't so frozen that she forgot where she lived. I knew I should have made her wear her coat.

I can already tell today won't be nearly as lovely, since the wind howled most of the night and is still doing so. I'm extra glad yesterday was beautiful since I'm guessing today will be quite miserable!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Crazy, Insane? Insane, Crazy?

I mentioned back on my first day of being unemployed that I was starting the Insanity workout series, which has been kicking my tail 6 days a week ever since. Can I just say that this workout series truly lives up to its name? I can't even describe how intense it is. Since I've done the P90X workout series (which is 90 days long) a couple of times in the last couple of years I thought I was accustomed to insane workouts. Insanity is just insane on a whole different level and in a whole different way.

I liked P90X, but it's mostly weightlifting, with just a couple of days during the week that were cardiovascular workouts. Although it made me super sore at first, there were only a couple of workouts each week in which I worked up serious sweat. When my 90 day regimen was complete, I was way stronger, but I hadn't really trimmed down at all. In fact, my arms had gotten even bigger with the added muscle! Although I used to lift weights on our Crossbow almost exclusively for my workouts, I think as my metabolism has slowed down with age, weightlifting just doesn't give me the results I want anymore. I crave cardio these days, which is why the Insanity series was right up my alley. Almost every day was so grueling and exhausting that I was drenched after finishing my 40-60 minute workout. For anyone who's done P90X, remember when Tony says the Plyometrics DVD is the "mother of all workouts"? Insanity is similar to that, except that it's every day instead of once a week!

The awesome thing about Insanity is that even though it's a massive cardio workout, there's also a ton of strength training (push-ups, lunges, etc.) so you feel like you're getting the best of both worlds. I like the idea that I'm burning calories and gaining muscle at the same time! It's a great challenge for both guys and girls, which both my brother and my husband can attest to!

One of the other cool things about Insanity is the "fit test" that you do every two weeks to track your progress. It takes about 25 minutes and is a series of 8 exercises that you do for a minute each to see how many you can do during that time. You can see your improvement in writing every 14 days, which is very encouraging. Here are my results over the course of the 9 week program, from day 1 to today, day 63:

You can see that my improvement, especially on the exercises that I really stunk at in the beginning, was pretty insane! I'm an average of 77% more fit and strong than when I started! :)

So here's the bad news. For me, this increase in fitness didn't actually equate to much of a change in body shape. It's like God gave me a certain sized body, and no matter what I do, that body stays pretty much the same. Of course, it might also be that during the last few weeks especially, I was working out so hard I was kind of famished all the time, so I probably consumed more calories than normal! Really, all I would have liked was for my jeans to fit a little looser--for my thighs and booty not to take up so much room! While I can certainly tell my legs aren't quite as jiggly (sorry for that disgusting image burned into your mind), their size was virtually unchanged. I took "before and after" pictures, and while I did see a little more definition in my abs in the after picture, the change in my out of proportion thighs was downright negligible. What a bummer!

With that said, I really do like the Insanity workout and totally plan on doing the 60 day series again soon!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Putting Away A Plethora

My big project of the day was taking down and putting away all the Christmas decorations. I know it's January 4th and I realize I'm probably the last person in the city who hasn't done this already, but when I was a kid our tradition was to always leave the tree and decorations up until after the New Year, so I'm kind of in that habit. Quite honestly, even if it hadn't been a childhood tradition, I would probably still leave them up this long. I just think the lights and the tree are so pretty. I'd probably leave them up a few weeks longer if next Monday wasn't the last day that the city will pick up trees for recycling.

This is going to sound really dorky, but I think part of why I like leaving the decorations out so long is that they're kind of like old friends that bring back lots of memories. Since you only get to see them once a year, you want to spend as much time with them as you can before they have to leave again. Cheesy, I know.

Today while I was getting ready to put things away, I first gathered the items from every room in the house and put them all onto the dining room table. I was thinking that having everything in one place would help me stay more organized as I put stuff back in their boxes, and I think the plan worked somewhat, but it also looked quite disastrous for a while first. I thought since I didn't take any pictures of the decorations while they were up this year, maybe I would bust out the camera and take a few pictures while they were coming down. This was the table loaded with all the decor, minus a few Christmas linens that were in the wash.

I like how Hope is standing there in a position that makes it look like she's wearing a Christmas bandana. Notice that the tree was still decorated at this point--the table didn't include any ornaments.

I realized at this point that 90% of the decorations around our house are not items that we actually purchased ourselves--they're almost all gifts. I think that's why they bring back so many memories and emotions, all relating to who gave them to us. Even if they're things we wouldn't have purchased for ourselves, they make us think of the family members or friends or former students (from my preschool teaching days) who gave them to us.

These two angels (you can barely see the back one) were presents from our friend Ted's parents the first two Christmases we were married.

I think those tall angels were gifts from one of my parents. The angel candle holders were from my dad. The brown angels behind the tall ones were from Chad's mom Joan. I think the stuffed Santa (whose beard you can see at the bottom) was from Chad's parents early in our marriage. His beard needs to be sewn back on because Hope chewed it off several years ago.

This nativity set is brand new. My dad just sent it to me for Christmas this year.

I'm thinking this nativity set came from my mom, and I think the Santa stacking dolls on the right were from her as well. Oh, and the plate with the snowmen was from her too--that was a present she got me one year after I'd admired it in the Hallmark store while we were out Christmas shopping together.

I think this is one of the few things on the table I actually purchased. I love these adorable little snowmen!!

These three little carolers made from clay were hand sculpted and painted by my brother's old girlfriend Cynthia. The little box of potpourri on the left was from one of my little preschoolers named Connor.

This cute little KU Christmas tree was either from my mom or Chad's parents--I can't remember.

The medium Santa behind that candle was a gift from one of my preschool students--a little girl named Maggie. The tall Santa is brand new too--I "won" that in the white elephant gift exchange at our small group Christmas party this year and I really like it!

I think maybe I bought the striped candles myself at some point, but the plates and bowls were a Christmas present from my dear husband, who surprised me with them one year when I was admiring them in Target. I love that print and wish I would have gone back and bought more!

This is definitely my most nostalgic of decorations. My mom made this when I was just a toddler, and it was displayed every Christmas in our house when I was a kid. I loved getting this rather hideous Santa out of the box every year and placing all of the little hand-wrapped packages around him and in his little burlap sack. I still do. I think I might need to replace that snow one of these days though!

There are so many others that have stories of their own, but I'll spare you any more pictures since this post is entirely too long already. Farewell to my little Christmas friends--see you all again in about 11 months!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Washington National Cathedral

The other day while I was going through all of my pictures from the year, I realized that I hadn't ever talked about my visit to the Washington National Cathedral or shared the plethora of pictures I took there. I've worked on this post three separate occasions so I'd say it's about time I finished it!

When Dad and I finished walking our 60 miles we stayed at a hotel for the night in DC, and the next morning we decided to do a little sight-seeing before making the drive back to Ohio. Dad had just recently taken a vacation to the nation's capital, so we decided to take in one of the attractions that he and his wife Mim had missed while they were there--the Washington National Cathedral.

Seriously, if I had to sum this place up in three words, they would be Oh.My.Goodness. This place was absolutely phenomenal--I can't even begin to describe it. The architecture of the building was absolutely amazing and the history of the building was absolutely astounding. The planning of this place actually began in the late 1800s, and after several architectural drawings and re-drawings, the first stone was laid in 1907. The first chapel in the building was finished in 1912, but construction continued until the largest towers were finished in 1990. It is such a massive, complex, intricate building, the final dedication wasn't until just 20 years ago. In case you're poor at math, that means it took 83 years to complete it!!

There is so much history behind this place and so many fascinating facts about it. The funerals of many former presidents and were held there, along with memorial services and national days of prayer. President Woodrow Wilson is actually entombed within the structure, as are many other famous Americans, such as Helen Keller and her tutor Anne Sullivan. There is a particular stained glass window which actually includes a piece of the moon, which was presented to the cathedral at a service by the astronauts who collected it. The moon, people. It has a piece of the moon! The building is one of the highest points in Washington and the tallest part of the building is just over 300 feet tall. You can't imagine how massive it is!

Dad and I went on a guided tour of the main floor with a bunch of junior high kids, which turned out to be fine since they were well-behaved and the guide was super knowledgeable. We then checked out the lower level chapels on our own, browsed through the gift shop, found fellow Salinans we knew in the Kansas guestbook (who'd just been there a few days before!), and went up to the observation gallery in one of the towers. The views up there were spectacular and we also learned tons about the architecture and planning from the very informative displays. There are just so many cool things to see in this place, but I know my descriptions probably won't make it sound very interesting! My pictures won't do the place justice either, primarily because I didn't take my good camera to DC! Had I known we'd be going to such an amazing place for photography, I would have carried my DSLR all 60 miles just to have it at the National Cathedral!

Although the pictures aren't very good, I hope they give you an idea of how incredible this place was. I definitely plan on going back some day and hope everyone else takes the opportunity to do so the next time you're in DC!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 In Pictures

Over the weekend I spent several hours going through all the photo folders on two different computers trying to organize all my pictures from 2010. It was a little daunting only because we got a new computer half way through the year, but everything has now been transferred, consolidated and labeled, so I was able to put together a year end slideshow like I did for 2009. I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve and has a more wonderful 2011!!