Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My First Trip to Ikea

I will admit, I never quite understood what all the fuss was about surrounding Ikea. I mean, I know it's supposed to be good inexpensive furniture and it's a big store. I have a friend who, when her son was three, he would rather spend a day there than the park or the zoo. I have looked at the website and while some of the stuff looks neat, most of it simply wasn't to my taste. Still, we have been on a home renovation kick lately and decided that since we'd be in the neighborhood it might be worth a little field trip.

I will admit that it probably wasn't the brightest decision to make our inaugural visit on a Saturday morning (along with everyone else in the world!) but it was what worked into our schedule. It was a bit overwhelming, especially since we weren't in search of something specific. I completely understand how people can spend all day there! I also understand why you would go when you don't need anything at all and how that can be insanely dangerous! Even though neither of us are really into "modern" design, we found tons of stuff we liked.

Once Jeff figured out "how it worked" he was in hog-heaven. He's all about DIY, speed, and efficiency when shopping, especially making larger purchases. It really did seem to be the best combination of lots of worlds to make both of us happy. Furniture (something we both enjoy), hardware and saving money(his things), with accessories and organization (my things) in one fabulously huge place with snacks. We will have to come back with a list, funding, and the big vehicle for sure! It was a serious blessing that we had none of those things this trip!

In spite of all that, we couldn't get out empty handed. I found a fabulous set of candle-holders I had seen at an altar design workshop and just had to have. I may need another set of them just to have more options. We also got two neat, low profile LED lights to be mounted on the top of our bookshelves in the den downstairs. Those were Jeff's "must have" and I agree they were perfect. I can't wait to get them installed. I found a mirror I really liked and a picture of Paris that both would have looked perfect in our guest room that we are in the process of renovating, but since we aren't to the "accessory" stage of the decorating I'll just have to wait a while longer and then make my case for going back!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mimi's Cafe - Mall of Georgia

Recently Jeff and I decided to take a long weekend and head over to the Atlanta area to visit with some family, take care of some business, and do some sight-seeing. We booked a hotel room across the street from the Mall of Georgia, thinking we were a little closer to town than we were. In addition to some good-natured joking on both our parts, we got the unexpected bonus of discovering Mimi's Cafe around the outside of the mall. We generally try to avoid eating at places where we can eat at home when we travel, so this was a great discovery, especially given how close it was!

Our first visit was for a late dinner on Friday. We didn't get "lunch" until close to 4pm so we really weren't interested in dinner until almost 9. They weren't busy at all, which was great. The atmosphere was casual, but still really nice. It had a New Orleans vibe to it, but it was kind of elegant, not an over-the-top Mardi Gras feel. Our first challenge of the evening came when we were presented with THREE different menus! Two were sort of specials and one was the "regular" menu. Oh, the decisions to be made. Despite all my pickiness, I had no problem coming up with a TON of options that sounded very tasty. Even my not-at-all adventurous husband was considering things like crepes thanks to a few strategically placed photos!

First, we started with an order of the spinach dip. It was very tasty and a little different, although it was a little on the oily side (I assume from some of the cheeses used in it). Still, it was very good and we polished it off quickly. I was really excited about trying a cup of tomato-basil bisque and Jeff got a garden salad with ranch dressing. My soup was great, but SUPER hot. I couldn't even take a bite for a good five minutes! Once it finally cooled enough that I could try it, it was delicious. Jeff tried it and Mr. "I don't like tomato soup" kept trying to sneak "just one more taste" and took full advantage of the two or three tortilla chips we had left from our spinach dip! I thought it was especially tasty with the crusty roll in the bread basket. Jeff really enjoyed his salad as well as a piece of the carrot raisin loaf, also in the "standard" bread basket. There was a third element, a couple of sliced of lemon poppyseed bread. It wasn't too sweet, which was really nice.

For our entrees, we decided on the Chicken Cordon Blue and the Pot Roast with the understanding we would share. Both were served with "seasonal vegetables" (broccoli and carrots) and mashed potatoes with gravy, although the chicken cordon blue came with the gravy on the side while the pot roast came with gravy on top of the meat and potatoes. The mashed potatoes were just ok. They tasted packaged. They definitely needed the gravy, which doesn't impress me much. I can't say much about the broccoli and carrots. Jeff liked them enough to eat most of his, but they weren't especially impressive. The pot roast was super-tender. I didn't use my knife at all because it just fell apart. It was juicy, but didn't have much flavor on its own. Once again, the gravy was almost essential. Normally I'm not a huge fan of brown gravy, but I really liked this. The chicken cordon blue was probably my favorite item of the evening. It wasn't a "typical" cordon blue. Instead, it was two small crispy chicken breasts with ham and swiss sandwiched between them and topped with a fabulous dijon sauce. Super-duper tasty and well prepared. After all that we were quite full but still in the mood for something sweet. For me, the lemon poppyseed bread was perfect at that point in the meal.

The service on that first visit left something to be desired. I don't know what our waitress had against us but she seemed none to pleased to be serving us. I would chalk it up to the fact that it was late and near the end of her shift, but she didn't have the same bad attitude with the tables around us. We sat for a long time before she ever came to take our drink orders, she pretty much just dropped our plates when she brought us our food, and brought our check before we could even inquire about a dessert. I also heard her offer several other tables to-go drinks and didn't offer us one so I wasn't about to ask. Despite that, we couldn't wait to come back.

Our second visit came for lunch the next day. This time, we were joined by some of Jeff's extended family who live around there. Although they came to us and told us to pick where we'd like to eat, they were thrilled when we picked Mimi's because we were informed that was one of their favorite places. When they inquired if we'd ever eaten there before, we admitted that we'd been for dinner the night before but wanted to come back. We came for a late lunch at 1:30, but we figured that would work to our advantage and it did. We had plenty of time to visit and didn't feel rushed at all. We were there for a total of four hours (probably three inside and another just standing outside talking) and no kidding, our waitress went on a break after we were finished with our meal and we were still standing outside when she came back and she was so sweet joking with us that she'd save our table for us in the back so we could come back in for dinner in a little while longer! I do remember her name (Jojo) and she was wonderful!

I couldn't get the fabulous tomato soup out of my head, so that with a grilled cheese seemed like the perfect lunch. The fact that it was 102 degrees outside was totally irrelevant. My sandwich also came with a side choice, and I got the kettle chips. It wasn't quite as good as the fabulous grilled cheese I got from Merchant's in January, but it was still excellent. Jeff's aunt and uncle both got the balsamic spinach salad with soup (one the tomato, one the corn chowder) and his cousin got the chicken dijon, which looked absolutely divine, and a garden salad. Jeff had in his head that he wanted to try the chicken crepes but when it came time to order he wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying and ordered the chicken parmesan with a caesar salad. The salad was good, but he was definitely surprised when his entree arrived. Even though it wasn't what he thought he ordered, it looked and tasted amazing and he didn't leave anything!

So, sadly, Jeff still didn't get to taste his crepes. There are plenty of other things on the menu I'd like to try as well, like quiche or that chicken dijon. We did some necessary digging and found out that there is a Mimi's in Montgomery, which is the closest one to us. Now, that's still a little over an hour away, but much more do-able than Georgia! This was especially good news to Jeff's cousin who will be moving to Montgomery after she gets married in the spring. I forsee a trip south in our not-so-distant future!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Eyes

I've needed some sort of vision correction since the third grade. It wasn't really surprising to anyone. Both of my parents had bad eyesight.  I had a pretty dramatic shift somewhere between fifth and sixth grade. I usually got my eyes checked right before the start of school so I know everything was ok at the start of fifth grade. Somewhere around the end of school, I was coming to my mom in tears on more than one occasion begging her to take me back to the eye doctor because I couldn't see anymore. It took weeks to be able to get me an appointment (which still irritates me to no end, now that I think about it!) and apparently my prescription had doubled in the 8 or 9 months between the two appointments and it was recommended that I get contacts. It took some getting used to, but once I did I loved my contacts because they really did help me to see better than my glasses did. I especially loved it when I got a new kind around my senior year of high school and was told I could sleep in them! I could wake up and see! What a novel concept!

Fast forward to the summer after my first year of college. In my math class, I realized that sitting in the back of the room the board was a little fuzzy. I was used to seeing everything on projector screens (thank you technology) so having to focus on dry erase marker on white board was a shift. I knew I probably needed to go back to the eye doctor. I called to get an appointment but again it would have been weeks (like at least six!) and there were no appointments to be had that fit with my class schedule. I figured it wasn't that bad and I'd get around to it later.

Well, now that it's been probably 9 years, I finally got around to it. Yes, I have noticed my eyes getting even worse. Don't ask me how I managed to make my stash of disposable contacts last this long, but I know it involved my parents ordering me more from my doctor with my old prescription which was better than nothing, finding random contacts (both in their original packaging and in my contact cases) in old make up bags and purses, going almost a year without wearing them and relying on my old glasses, and at times only wearing one contact.

After far too long, I finally got around to getting my eyes checked. It was a little embarrassing and I did get "the look" at least once when he gave me new "sample" contacts to wear home since I wasn't even legal to drive with my old prescription (which I kind of figured, but oh well!) My eyes have gotten pretty dramatically worse to where my contacts are now deemed "medically necessary" and my glasses are so thick they HAVE to be special, thinner lenses to fit in the frames. There was definitely some frustration when, after a phone call to my insurance I (and the eye doctor) was told that they don't cover any extra, it'll still only cover part of my glasses OR 1/3 of my contacts. Grrr. Oh well. I've got to have them both! Thankfully, my benefit year starts over in a few more weeks so I'm technically getting the glasses in "this year" and my contacts in "next year." Still, I can see so much better now and I'm kind of excited about my new glasses because I think they'll be kind of cute.

In the midst of my appointment I asked and was told that I'm pretty much guaranteed not to be a candidate for LASIK, which I already knew but asked anyway. However, I did learn about something I never knew existed - implantable contacts! It's actually similar to cataract surgery and while it's a slightly bigger deal than LASIK, it's something I would actually consider. I'll have to wait at least 6 months to a year to see if I would qualify and make sure I've finally stabilized enough to make it worth doing, but it's definitely on my mind. The only down side is that insurance doesn't cover it. I don't even think they offer a discount (like they did on Jeff's LASIK) so it would be entirely out of pocket. Still, considering it'd last forever and how much I'm going to be paying for glasses and contacts otherwise, it seems like a wise investment! Stay tuned!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Liebster Award

Mary Beth over at Life with the Alstons gave me a Liebster Award while I was at the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Since my internet was spotty at best and I really was trying to un-plug for the week, I didn't do anything with it right away. It kind of got lost in the shuffle of getting back, work, marriage, my birthday, and other parts of life. But I didn't forget about it, I swear! So I am finally sitting down to work on this!

Liebster is a German word and it means, sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome. The award is given to followers with less than 200 followers.

So first, 11 random facts about myself...
  • I participated in an HIV vaccine study to confront my fear of needles. 
  • I've completed 2 half marathons
  • I snore. Lots and loudly. My husband actually slept in the guest room for the first few months we were married until he got used to it!
  • I hope to visit all 50 states in my lifetime.
  • I don't like most vegetables
  • I have one brother who is 25 months younger than I am
  • I am a strong introvert who needs some time alone every day.
  • I would be a student for the rest of my life if I could!
  • I am OCD about stuff matching and have been pretty much all my life
  • I always need a pen and piece of paper close by
  • My favorite colors are pink, teal, and yellow

Now, for Mary Beth's questions...

What is your favorite TV show? Top Chef or Big Bang Theory
What is your favorite place to vacation? The spa deck of the Carnival Dream
If you had $1 million to give away, what would you do with it? Some would go to the Children's Hospital, a nice chunk would go to pay for scholarships at Vanderbilt Divinity School, some to the Crisis Center and Rape Response, and the rest to the United Methodist Children's Home.
What is the first concert you went to? I think it was maybe Third Day, I don't really remember.
What is your biggest pet peeve? People who curse excessively or who are simply mean and rude
What are you afraid of? Hurting the people I love or getting in a car accident
Is there something you could not live without? If so, what? My contacts or glasses - I'm blind as a bat without them!
If you could meet anyone, who would it be? I am honestly not sure. 
What is your dream car? To be perfectly honest, I'm very happy with my little Mazda3 5-door
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? England or Nashville 
What is your favorite olympic sport? Gymnastics or Diving

Now I get to nominate folks for this lovely award! Clearly, I need more bloggy friends! Still, I love the ones I've got.

Jacklynn at The Mama Mama

And last but not least, my questions!
  1. What is something you wish you got to do more often?
  2. What is your favorite color(s)?
  3. Do you have a cause or charity that is close to your heart? What and why?
  4. What would be your perfect meal - food, setting, company, etc.?
  5. What is something you loved doing once but never want to do again?
  6. Do you have any hidden talents?
  7. If you could be remembered for only one thing, what would you hope that thing would be?
  8. Are you ready for summer to be over?
  9. Do you have a favorite scent? If so, what?
  10. What is your favorite nickname and why?
  11. What is your favorite book or author?
Rules for the Liebster Award are as follows: 
(1) Post 11 things about yourself, (2) Answer the questions that your nominating blogger has set for you and then create 11 questions for your nominees, (3) choose up to 11 blogs to nominate and link them in your post, (4) go to their respective blogs and let them know, and (5) no tag backs!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Week 83 - A Premature End

It is after much thoughtful consideration that I have decided to end my 101 projects list early. Many of the items on my list got done. Some didn't. Some may still happen within the time frame I originally set. Some I could have done, some I couldn't have changed. If some things still happen that's fine and if they don't, that's ok too. The whole experience was an interesting one and it taught me a lot.

The biggest thing it taught me was that #1 you can't plan everything and #2 you can't will everything to happen your way and #3 life and priorities can change a lot in two years and that's ok if I am willing to change with them.

I honestly wasn't expecting existential life lessons to come from this challenge, but on some level the possibility of being open to those kinds of lessons is part of what I learned through this process, too. If not directly a result, it's a great example of how my life and I have changed over the past 101 weeks.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still a planner and scheduler and organizer. I still like to be in control and I like to be able to make things happen and cross things off a list. But I am learning to go with it when life changes. I am learning that I am not a failure as a human being when I am flexible and open to what the world might have to offer me rather than being so focused on what I can provide. In fact, I am able to live more fully and enjoy the beauty of life when I can truly embrace what it means to be in relationship rather than in isolation.

I have started some new projects and those are going to take priority for a while. I liked the idea of the list but I got to a point that I just plain didn't care about it anymore, and if I'm not doing it for myself, it's really not worth doing. I don't make any money from this blog (nor do I really expect to!) so I am not in a position to do stuff just to have material to write about. I may start another, smaller list next year, but for now I'm just going to live in the moment and enjoy all the things happening in, with, and through me!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Academy for Spiritual Formation #34

I attended my first session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation this past week and I have got to say that was probably the most powerful week of my life so far. I made some amazing new friends and I am incredibly blessed to have them for traveling companions for the next two years. I had my passion for learning rekindled thanks to our amazing faculty and I'm definitely grieving the fact that they will not be continuing on this journey with us but I am at the same time excited to see what else we will see and do and learn.

I think the most amazing and powerful experience was simply the schedule we followed, which was based on the benedictine model of life. We began each day in silence which was broken during our morning prayer service. After the service we had breakfast and then our first faculty presentation. That presentation was followed by another hour of silence for meditation and reflection. At the end of that hour we had a plenary session for asking questions and discussing some of our thoughts/experiences. After that we had some "community time" for various announcements and the occasional other presentation, and then lunch. After lunch we had some free time (during which I generally honored the Sumatanga tradition of "flat time" and took a nap!) After that we had another faculty presentation, another hour of silence, and another plenary session. Following that session we had an evening Eucharist service and then dinner. After dinner we usually had a little more free time (if we didn't get caught up in conversations at dinner!) and then would meet in our covenant groups. After covenant group time we would come back together as a whole community for evening prayers. At the end of evening prayers we would observe the "great silence" until the next morning.

In case you're keeping track, that was 12 hours a day of silence. A good portion of that time was spent sleeping, but it was literally half of our day. I loved it. I learned a lot during that time, not least of which was about myself!

So now I'm home with my bed and my husband and my dogs. It's great to be home, but it doesn't feel exactly "right". As I write this, it's closing in on 1 am and I'm wide awake. That could be due in part to the large amount of caffeinated soda I had tonight (which has been a much less prominent feature in my life during the last week!) or the sugar-filled milk shake I had for dessert. But a part of me feels that the thing I'm missing in being able to settle myself is the service of night prayers and the silence and solitude.

I wasn't completely isolated during this week. No, I didn't have cell phone signal but I did have internet access to check e-mail. I used my iPad every day to take notes and read books. I had technology accessible to me. But the change of pace was really nice. I'm sure after another day or two I'll settle back into life here and things will feel more "normal" here. But I kind of like this discomfort and what it may prod me to do.

Part of this was also the making of a personal covenant for disciplines we will practice. This is my covenant:
Exercise 3 times a week
Read scripture, pray/meditate, and journal every day
Observe 20-30 minutes of silence each day, apart from the previous task, to simply "be" rather than "do!"
Participate in worship (without a leadership role) at least twice a month
Fast from technology for 24 hours each week - computer, internet, e-mail, TV, and phone. This may not always be the same 24 hours depending on my work schedule, but I will do 24 hours a week!

I'm hoping that my readers will be able to help keep me accountable to this, but also know that I will probably do some of my journaling/processing on here and I can't promise it will always make sense, but if nothing else it may be somewhat comical!

I'm already so excited about this journey and the places where the road will lead next.