Blog Archives for category Raves & Praise

I was shopping most of the day so this JUST happened. 

  

I’M FREE!!!

Both kids are officially at school full time!! No tears…just excitement!

No more training wheels!

He’s been going out biking a lot with the neighbor kid and he said he was finally ready to take the training wheels off. Tom had moved them so they were still on but up high enough where he couldn’t really rely on them. So we made him ride down the street and I followed him to see if the wheels ever touched. They didn’t, so Tom took the wheels off! Then it was time for the first real ride!

And of course sister was with us, too, because she is a bike riding fiend.

 

  
  

And getting his reward for learning to ride—his new (adult!) bike!!

  

It pays to know the owner. 

Shopping before the store opens…the benefits of being related to the owner. We brought home 18 packs of brats!!

   

Len Summer Christmas 2017

Nick and Gracie making Christmas M&Ms (the rest went into Lisa’s monster cookies).

Just a few brats to cook…

All the kids like to fish but they say Aubrey is the one who loves it the most and is the best at it. She apparently gives lessons to other kids at their house!

Katie caught a fish!

Someone took an unplanned jump into the river (learning you can’t walk on lily pads):

Drying off…

I think this picture is a tradition.

And the mandatory annual family Christmas photo! Every year they give us grief about taking it… And this year with the craziness of the move I didn’t post it immediately and they were all asking about it!! So there. :p

And the annual kid comparison—Katie is getting closer to Aubrey but Aubrey is still ahead (which should be the case, as she’s almost 9). And as usual, Owen is definitely taller than Gracie…

But I think he beats Nick this year!!


Last year:

More fishing!

After a campfire and s’mores it was time for bed. The kids decided to all sleep in the living room… Poor Timmy. :)

 

A list of things to even out my karma, Illinois edition.

So back in July 2014, I compiled a list of things I liked about our new house to hopefully counteract all the bitching I’d done about it. Well, it’s time for another list.

  1. We live just about equidistant from both sets of grandparents. 
  2. The house is on a flat street. 
  3. The house has a flat yard. 
  4. We have a nice green lawn. 
  5. We have a decent size back yard. 
  6. We have a good place for our patio set. 
  7. We have a good place for our picnic table. 
  8. We have kids living next door and next next door and around the corner. 
  9. We have great neighbors—with kids our kids like. 
  10. The bus stop is three houses down. 
  11. We live near two cul-de-sacs and one dead end which are great for bike riding. 
  12. There’s a small playground a short bike ride from home. 
  13. We met our landlord and he’s really nice. He told us he has learned “to make his renters happy.”
  14. Our landlord said he’d give us his pool passes to use the rest of the summer. 
  15. The landlord put in a brand new insulated garage door (because we said the old one was falling apart).
  16. The garage door is wifi-connected. 
  17. The landlord will be putting new hardwood floors in the kitchen because of the failing grout and his unhappiness with the overall look. 
  18. We live less than a mile from both kids’ schools. 
  19. We live about three miles from a big city water park.
  20. We live three miles from a huge mall and pretty much any basic store we’d want (Target, Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.). 
  21. We have granite countertops in the kitchen and master bath. 
  22. We have a great gas stove with a center burner. 
  23. We have a good dishwasher that actually dries dishes. 
  24. I finally have an undermount kitchen sink!
  25. Our sectional couch fits in one of our living rooms (so it’s no longer relegated to the basement).
  26. The A/C works well. 
  27. There is a big storage room in the basement. 
  28. The kids will love the pool table the landlords left. 
  29. Katie gets a pink room (it was pink for the owner’s daughter).
  30. Most of the house is freshly repainted. 
  31. There is so much natural light everywhere that we generally don’t have to turn on lights until it gets really dark. 
  32. There are windows in the master bathroom. 
  33. There are windows in the laundry room. 
  34. There’s a window over the sink which overlooks the back yard. 
  35. There is a wood-burning fireplace. 
  36. The household wifi seems to be really good.
  37. We have a covered porch. 
  38. We have room for guests to park in the driveway and on the street (just not overnight).
  39. Sixty miles of bike trails nearby. 
  40. Located by many sporting events (professional and college). [Note: that one is from Tom—it isn’t a big deal for me!]


My heart feels better.

Both kids have been troopers about moving, but they’ve both been sad and missing their friends (as would be expected). It was weighing heavily on me, even though there was nothing we could do about it (as would be expected). So we took them out to ride their bikes and get their mind off things.

And literally within 10 minutes, neighbors with two kids (a 5yo girl and 4yo boy) walked over and introduced themselves. After talking for a few minutes, the kids were off riding their bikes together in the cul-de-sac and then were invited to bounce on the trampoline. The parents offered to watch them for a bit while we worked. 💕

They were the perfect welcome for the neighborhood. And their kids (plus another neighbor’s 7yo son) are just what mine needed after leaving their besties.

When I went to retrieve them about two hours later, Katie was on the trampoline in a gymnastics leotard and when I joked about it the mom laughed and said they had a costume change and they might also have makeup on. I said I would expect nothing less. :)

[Note after a few days: So both kids have apparently found their new best friends. Our very next door neighbor is the 7yo boy and him and Owen are already thick as thieves riding bikes, playing catch, and playing basketball. The little girl is two doors down and is also starting kindergarten! They both come ring the doorbell and ask if the kids can come out to play. We love it.]

Mermaid hair!

I saved this photo many many months ago as something I thought I’d someday like to do. Well…today is that day!

So this is happening!

I opted to go for teal instead of the pink in the original photo…so I’m going to be a mermaid!!

I’m leveling up! (Yeah, that was a new term for me, too. It’s going up the color chart to a lighter color.)

The parts of my hair that aren’t being touched—a bun on the top of my head and the under layers pulled to the side.

Leveling up (yes, bleaching) completed. YIKES!!! I have never seen my hair this color. The cool colors come next.

Stage two: More colors my hair has never seen!! The next time you see me I’ll be done!

The final product: I totally ❤️ it. I’m sooo thrilled!!

And here are some of the pics my stylist took to add to her album—she was SO excited to get to do it because people don’t often choose these types of colors!!

iFly again!

Today is the day I redeem my free flights from them messing up me not getting any photos the last time! And what better lipstick color to wear for flying than Fly Girl? (Though it’s a tiny bit too deep for me on its own so I layered it between Cocoa!)

Since I missed out on any pictures the last time, I made sure to have Tom take a ton of them this time around—which he certainly did!! I had about 100 to sort through! Here are the best of them…I am making excited faces in most of them because I was smiling and making faces for the kids when I flew around by them. (Click on any of them to see a bit bigger version!)

The instructor knew I had flown before and had told me that we could try a new move or two, but since I only had short flights (two one-minute flights instead of the two two-minute flights I had the first time) we wouldn’t be able to do too much. That said, almost as soon as I got in, I flew way above her head! I could sense she was a bit nervous (they generally keep you at chest level or below so they can grab you if they need to) but she saw I was okay so she let me go!!

Taking me up for the High Flight!

Owen was the videographer for these! He did a great job!!

And the actual pics they took! The instructor said she put me in front of the camera A LOT to make sure I got a good photo!

Post-flight success pics!

It’s funny. While I was waiting (and it was a looong wait today) I was like “Ugh. Is this really worth it? All the travel time and all the wait time for two silly minutes in the chamber…” And then I did it and YES, it was totally worth it. It’s SOOOO much fun. I can’t wait to use my 10 minutes in Chicago!!

I may have just fried a piece of chicken skin that came out of the freezer. 

And shall I add that it was cooked in bacon grease?!

Yum.

 

Can your lipstick survive the dentist?

Mine can! Here’s a Before & After teeth cleaning. The color looks exactly the same—I’m just missing a bit of gloss! I’m telling you LipSense is amazing. 

  

KISS AND RIDE IS NOT THAT HARD PEOPLE.

  

We like our new regular theater.

Five minutes from the house, they serve alcohol, and they have reserved RECLINING seats. 

  

Adulting with Jami.

Since we planned on drinking, we took a Lyft to the restaurant, and since it was a chocolate restaurant (The Chocolate Sanctuary), I obviously had to start with the German Chocolate Cake martini…Vodka, Amaretto, cream of coconut, chocolate, caramel, and toasted coconut. 

Then Jami took over on the pictures.

  • Chicken and Goat Cheese Wrapped in Cocoa-Candied Bacon with Cocoa-cranberry sauce. 
  • Cocoa Pan-Seared Scallops with Zucchini chips, truffle mash potatoes, miso beurre blanc
  • The Sanctuary Chopped Salad: Romaine, field greens, sweet corn, avocado, cocoa-candied bacon, tomatoes, hearts of palm, cheddar cheese, herb-parmesan croutons, chocolate vinaigrette

Elderflower Aperitif: Sparkling Moscato D’Asti, St. Germain, and fresh raspberry

Beignets! Light and airy chocolate filled doughnuts served with mixed berry compote and crème anglaise

We will definitely visit again and bring out of town guests…

Flying in the middle? No problem!

It’s still SUCH a good feeling to be able to cross my legs in a middle row seat! I ♥️ Naturally Slim!! Also, I’m wearing my #lipsense stripes!!

  

It was all I could do to not buy it all. 

I missed this last year so when I saw it today at Target I had to buy some, even though the last thing I need to be doing before we move is buying more stuff.

 

Phew! Our house hunting saga is over!

I thought I had posted about this but looking back, I apparently didn’t.

About two weeks ago, our agent just sent us an unlisted listing—a client of hers who she happened to be sitting with. It looked really good…not perfect but good. A four bedroom/three bath, 3-car garage, ranch. Pets okay. Finished basement. On a dead end street. With a yard. In the approximate area we want. And he would hold it for us. And they’re military. And did I mention it had a THREE-CAR GARAGE? And it was a RANCH??!?!

But he wanted to start the rent at $2400 (already over budget) and raise it the next two years. We tried to tell ourselves the money would be fine. BECAUSE IT’S A RANCH WITH A 3-CAR GARAGE AND FINISHED BASEMENT.

We got more pictures that night (of course, her text came in at 11pm our time so there was no going to bed then) and our agent said she’d ask about the rent. But the more we looked at it and talked about it, it seemed really good. So of course we thought there has to be a catch because the odds of something good just dropping into our laps like this is not what happens to us. So we rushed to get a friend in to check out the house and take pics for us (our agent couldn’t be the one to do that because of stupid real estate rules so we HAD to have someone else do it). And there were some strange things about it, but overall they were all workable because DID I MENTION IT WAS A 3-CAR GARAGE RANCH?!?!

Well, it turns out the whole thing was a debacle and a big fat fail. I can’t even tell you all the details because I think I’m blocking it from my brain, but basically, they were total turds and apparently the wife didn’t know the husband was planning on renting it? Or they were just casually thinking of renting it when our situation popped up so they tried to make it work but it didn’t (we think they were going to move to something cheaper while trying to make money on us so they didn’t have anywhere planned to go). So when we ended up being serious and asking about a few minor things (an above-stove microwave instead of the countertop one, a garage door opener for the third garage, leaving the carpet they wanted to replace but replacing the kitchen linoleum instead) they freaked out and said they weren’t going to rent. GRRR. I’m sure that saved us from future nightmares (because OMG there was some freaky stuff in that house, but not freaky enough to overlook it being a ranch with a 3-car garage). So needless to say we were really bummed.

We knew we had house hunting time scheduled, but we were still getting paranoid about getting something decent because houses are literally only on the market for HOURS, maybe a few days at most. And rentals that take pets are, of course, rare. So we knew we may have to act quickly if something we really liked came up.

So, fast forward two weeks and we happen upon a listing in Zillow that is nowhere else. Long story short, it was somehow mislabeled as an apartment instead of a house and we still aren’t quite sure how we ran across it. Call our agent, get some details, get more pics, yada yada, looks great, but we have to rush because two other people are set to see it later that week so if we want it we have to MOVE. So we beg our lovely local friend Scott to give us a Facetime walkthrough…which he graciously did…and we really liked it. So rush rush rush to arrange everything, deal with the owner (through our agent) who is not using an agent himself so that’s SO MUCH FUN (not)…and a bunch of real estate drama later we have a house! YIKES! We will still go up later this month to actually see it in person (though it’s ours at this point regardless) and register the kids for school and all that fun stuff but we can breathe a sigh of relief now…

Google earth shots—look at that yard! And how flat it is! HEAVEN!!!!

The neighbor’s fence. We will have two sides of a fence. :lol:

    

This is a living area/dining room. If our table fits nicely in the eat-in kitchen this will all be living space. I’m also thinking this is where my new tall Christmas tree will be going… ;)

        

Not quite the kitchen I was hoping for, though it is nice and I do like the wraparound counter and we will hopefully have room for at least two barstools and this will be the first time ever we’ve had a backsplash!

    Another living space—not quite sure how the TV will work because we won’t be putting it there.

Look at all the natural light! And it looks out onto the back yard!

The guest room! We thought it was the master but during the walk-through we learned otherwise.  

When we were watching the walk-through, Katie was sitting with us and when they got to the pink bedroom she exclaimed “That’s my room!!” There are four bedrooms (all upstairs). The basement has an office (or room without a closet), a HUGE storage room and separate utility room, and a decent sized finished area with room for a play area…and a pool table (!!) and big pool hall light that are staying. (I am sure we will end up using it, but Tom is already planning on building a cover for it to make me a craft table or something.) There was also a swing hanging from the ceiling, so Katie was VERY excited about that. Tom told her it would be going with them, but I said we could surely put one up now that we know where it can go! I don’t think there will be room for the bounce house, but at this house we can use it IN THE YARD!

So overall we’re happy. It’s a big house (2700sf) on a flat street with sidewalks and we have a long flat driveway. We have a big front yard, side yard, and back yard (Tom is already thinking about what mower he’s going to upgrade to since our little electric one won’t cut it—pun not intended but it was too good to edit out). We are under two miles from both the Primary (PK/K) and Elementary (1-3) schools and just under three miles from the Intermediate school (4-5). The schools will take some getting used to as they are HUGE! The PK/K alone is about 700 students (about the size of Owen’s entire elementary PK-5) and the Elementary is about 1700! YIKES. One small thing I’m bummed about is that Owen and Katie will never attend the same school—she will be in K when he’s in 3rd and then she will move to that building for 1st but he will be in the next building! GRRR! I guess that’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but right now I just envision it being an annoyance. Oh well, it will all be a new adventure for sure!

Partisan Pig Feast + More!

A Tivo-peep/Michigan friend, Therese, was in town for a conference, so we threw together a last-minute dinner downtown at The Partisan (I was thrilled to go there because that’s a dinner we recently missed when Tom had to be in Chicago for work).

The menu changes daily (and I forgot to take a picture of it—I’m slacking in my old age) so I checked their website hoping for tonight’s selection…but it wasn’t meant to be. That said, most of the items were still listed. I’m fairly sure you will be able to tell which descriptions are from the actual menu I found. (I also didn’t take pictures of the dishes like I normally would—so all the food pictures below (minus one) are all from TCF peep friend Jonathon.) As is usual practice, we all ordered a bunch of stuff then shared everything.

Three of us ordered this (which means everyone got to try it all). Unfortunately, none of the courses were listed so I’m going by memory:

– Lamb Koobideh Kebab, Doner Spice, Sumac Onions, Coriander Yogurt, Mint

– Beef Fat Fries, Roasted Garlic, Rosemary, Ranch Aioli
– “Head shoulders knees and toes” taquitos (Pig Feast course #1)

– Seared Scallops, & Morcilla [blood] Sausage, Adobo Cream, Lardo, Agave (ordered off menu but it was also Pig Feast course #3 so we had double portions!)
– Dan Dan Noodles with Beef Cheek

– Prosciutto and asparagus (Pig Feast course #2)

– Pasta with pig face ragout (Pig Feast course #4)

– Pork tenderloin with fava beans, polenta, and arugula (Pig Feast course #5)

It was at this point that Tom said “Well, I think that’s it!” And then the waiter brought out two more dishes! :)

– Rotissi-fried Chicken, Honey Hot Sauce

– Chocolate Cake Donut Holes, Chocolate Pudding, Chocolate Crunch Pearls

And the only food pic I took myself—my share of the dessert plate:

Goodbye selfie:

Where are my iFly pictures and videos?! (Part 2)

This is a combined post with four days of waiting and replies.

April 10—4:34pm

The next day they replied that they had found them and emailed them all to me free of charge. Except they were all of Katie! (Looking on the bright side, I now had like eight free photos of Katie instead of paying $5 a piece.) Soooo I emailed back and asked about them again, saying I hated to be such a pain about this but this was my bucket list experience and I had really wanted the photo. They replied with links to pictures…but they were the same photos of Katie they had already sent! So I fired off another email thanking them for all the pictures but explaining AGAIN that they were not pictures of ME.

April 12—1:51pm

Two days go by with no response so I email them again, casually asking if there was any update. 

April 14—12:54pm

TWO DAYS LATER I get an email apologizing for the delayed response (she had been off work) and saying “Unfortunately I was unable to find your photos, but we would be happy to send you a voucher for you to come back and fly for free so that we may find your photos.”

April 14—2:05pm

I receive the email voucher for two free flights.

And then I proceeded to write this strongly-worded feedback for their survey—which I also emailed to their corporate office.

Our instructor was awesome and we all had an amazing time and I was thrilled to check something off my bucket list. I do, however, have two HUGE suggestions (I will also be writing corporate as I believe it would be beneficial company-wide).

One, kids under a certain age should be required to do a practice run on the bench in the classroom to get the feel of it. While there isn’t much to remember, even I (as a 42yo) kind of forgot everything the first moment I stepped into the chamber. So you can imagine what happens to an 8yo and 4yo! They did well and had fun, but my son had spaghetti legs one whole flight and the instructor spent an inordinate amount of time wrangling him. I think had he practiced on the table first, he may have had a better idea on what to do.

Two, guests with long hair should be strongly recommended or even required to have their hair braided, in a cap, or at the very least tucked up inside their helmet. You could even provide a cap (like you provide earplugs). I have long hair (to the middle of my back). I did ask the best way to deal with it and was briefly told a braid or a low ponytail. So I opted for the easy solution of a low ponytail. BIG MISTAKE. I didn’t realize until after we were done that my hair was a huge knotted mess. When I tried to deal with it the following morning, it was a nightmare trying to get 8″ of thick hair untangled. Granted I should have thought more about it and realized that wind was obviously going to mess up my hair and taken my own precautions—but with the excitement of the day and having asked and received a quick answer, I thought I’d be okay. I literally spent HOURS painstakingly trying to comb out all the mats and knots with a head full of conditioner, leave-in conditioner, detangling spray, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.—anything to help the process along. And eventually just gave up and used brute force and pulled out a ton of hair. This was a very disappointing end to an awesome experience which I believe could all have been easily prevented with a simple cap, helmet tuck, or requirement to braid.

Lastly, we had an issue with our videos and photos that we’re still trying to work out. We were a family of four and when we went to check out our media, my name was listed but the media was of my daughter (whose name wasn’t listed). A call to your staff had them researching the footage and I did eventually get my videos, but am still waiting to see if they can find my photos. I know mistakes happen but I have to say it was upsetting to realize I initially didn’t have any videos or pictures of my bucket list experience. I will say, though, that dealing with your staff regarding this has ended up better than I’d expected—emails were answered quickly and my issues thus far were solved efficiently. I am hoping to resolve the photo issue quickly as well. (I am wondering if there isn’t some way to scan your wrist band before each time you step in the chamber, which would trigger the recording with your name. It would seem you have some similar type system since the videos were mostly attached to the correct person…but then I’m not sure how my flights were all missing.)

All that said, I will say that overall we were very happy with our experience…and we will be back. But I would strongly suggest adding both the child-practice sessions and the long-hair issue to your pre-flight information and lessons.

Thank you!!

So, while there were some bad parts (the hair thing and the missing media thing), overall I would still recommend it…plus I get two extra flights during which my hair will be tucked so far up in my helmet it won’t budge. And I will have Tom taking pictures and videos the whole time.

Where are my iFly pictures and videos?! (Part 1)

April 9—5:26pm

So we get home and I pretty much went straight to the computer to check out our photos and videos. If you recall, our iFly tickets each came with a free video and then Tom and I added on the High Flyer experience which came with a photo. So I login to get our videos and pictures…and guess what? There are exactly ZERO of either for me. Everyone else has a video (or two). Everyone else has a bunch of pics (Katie and Owen each had like 15). I HAD ZERO OF EITHER. The way their site is set you click on your location > date > flight time > name to see your associated media. Except Katie’s name wasn’t listed and my name showed all of Katie’s photos and videos! I flew right before her so had no idea how they could possibly have skipped me…twice? Including a high fly experience AND a double-length flight?!

I called them immediately and told them what was going on and they said they’d have to look into it and call me back. It didn’t sound terribly promising. They did call back within about 15 minutes to ask what color shoes I was wearing—I’m assuming so they could scrutinize the video feed and try and find my media. So I was a bit upset…but in a holding pattern hoping they would come through.

And what really gets me is that I didn’t take (or have Tom take) one single picture or video with my phone!! Why not you ask? Because I was thinking I didn’t want to keep it in my pocket while I was flying…but DUH I could have easily handed it off to Tom because we obviously weren’t flying at the same time. I was so pissed at myself about that for quite some time.

April 9—8:32pm

When we hadn’t heard anything back from them, Tom called to see what was going on. They assured him they were taking care of it.

April 9—11:24pm

I checked my email before bed and discovered they had sent the download links for two videos (so I actually got a free video!) but…they didn’t send any pics (!!) so I had to email them back about that. And after watching the videos…it’s two snippets from one flight and not a video from both flights! (Believe me, I’m very happy to have gotten the videos at all, but I am still very much hoping there’s a picture or two since they are much clearer than the video.)