Thursday, May 31, 2012

This is what procrastination will get you!

A shattered window.

What happened, you might ask?

We had a storm door installed in our walk-out basement when we moved here, but the handyman who installed it didn't do a great job and the door never latched properly. It can get very windy in Iowa, so the door would fly open when it was really windy out. It's been doing that for over a year-and-a-half, plenty of time to get it fixed, but it was something we procrastinated on doing, thinking it was a nuisance but not too big of a deal and eventually we'd take care of it. But that proved to be flawed reasoning when last month a super-strong gust of wind made the storm door slam its handle into the window next to it, thereby shattering the window pane. 

So last Friday our new handyman fixed the door, and on Tuesday a guy came out to replace the window, all totaling a cost of a few hundred dollars. We learned our lesson. Take care of things sooner rather than later or you might end up paying for it. Sometimes literally!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Storm Clouds

One of the things I like about Iowa is the wide-open expanse of sky here. It's expressive and honest with very little to hide what's going on up there. Often when a storm is on the way the clouds precede it and give warning (I guess that's the case in most places!). I really like clouds and storms--as long as they're not tornadoes, which scare me to death (hopefully never literally)--so I enjoy this. These are pictures I took from a big thunderstorm one afternoon last May. Obviously most of the pictures were taken before the rain started to fall. I like storms, but not enough to go out and stand in them. Besides, my camera isn't waterproof!

Date: May 2011
Location: My yard

I like the contrast of the green trees and green grass with the gray-blue sky.

 "I'm coming to get you, my sweet!" That's what this makes me think of. In the photo below it looks like the shadow of a huge Spiderman with his arms outstretched or something like that.

Some of these photos are a bit blurry. I think my camera was feeling a little anxious that day. 

 The darkness starts to overpower any remaining light...

 And then...BAM! Down comes the rain in sheets!

And then I went inside so that I wouldn't get hit by lightning. I'm smart like that!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Beautiful Nauvoo Temple

As a Latter-day Saint I feel blessed to be in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple district. It's a beautiful, historic temple located on the western edge of Illinois, right across the Mississippi River from Iowa. If you want to know more about it, including its unique history, click here.

I took these pictures of the temple last month when my mother was visiting from Massachusetts. We went to Nauvoo on Good Friday and it was a quiet, peaceful, beautiful day. 

There are my boys running alongside the temple. They look tiny!


 I really like this statue of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith.

Note the intricate star and sunstone designs, along with the awesome bell tower (it's the only LDS temple to have one) and of course, the angel Moroni.

This is the view from the top of the hill where the temple sits. The Mississippi River is in the background, and the green hills of Iowa are beyond that.

Isn't it beautiful? I love it! We're going to Nauvoo again this weekend.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

April Flowers

It's Nature Photo Tuesday!

This is a tree in our yard. It's in bloom like this for only about two weeks out of the entire year (unfortunately!).

The blossoms are really pretty close up. I like standing underneath the branches and looking up. 

This is another flowered tree on the opposite side of the yard. It's small but pretty, although it's scrawny-looking when it's not in bloom. (Which is about 363 weeks of the year. Poor thing!)

It provides a nice pop of color every April! And it's a good reminder that there's usually a lot more to living things, whether they're plant, animal, or human, than meets the eye.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five Things for Friday

1. Mother's Day weekend recap: The hotel stay by myself last Friday night was wonderful. It was even more peaceful, rejuvenating, and relaxing than I thought it would be. I loved every moment of it! And can I just say that Marriott is a class act with its beautiful hotel rooms and excellent customer service. I'm tempted to do these solo hotel stays more often! It was awesome. I get re-energized when I'm able to get time to myself every now and then. And (yes, mom!) it was a nice weekend spent with the kids and Peter once I got home on Saturday.

2. I miss Oprah and her show. I wish she hadn't ended it to start her cable TV network, OWN (which is not doing well, by the way). I think she still could have done a lot with her show, which was well-known, popular, and accessible to pretty much anyone with a television, whether they had cable or not. Plus if she hadn't ended it last year I'm pretty sure I would have been able to get a ticket to one of the show's tapings. I only had less than a year to try for that once we moved to Iowa when it was a lot more likely that I'd actually be able to get to Chicago, but it had to be her final year when it was nearly impossible to get a ticket! But, on the plus side, my DVR has more free space and therefore so does my life. But I do miss the show! Its absence leaves a little empty space in my life. I learned a lot of good things from some of her shows and sometimes they were so funny and gave me a good laugh.

This picture of Oprah interviewing Elizabeth Taylor in the 1980s cracks me up! It's been hanging out in a folder on my desktop for awhile waiting to be put on the blog, so here is its well-deserved moment of glory!

3. I love this moisturizer! It's Clinique's Turnaround Overnight Radiance Moisturizer.

It works so well! I've been using it for a few months at night, and I notice a definite difference in the mornings because my skin looks really clear and luminous when I wake up. And when I get too lazy or tired to put it on before I go to bed for a few nights in a row, my skin doesn't look as good. I think it's even helped to prevent breakouts and has noticeably improved my complexion's overall health and appearance. So I highly recommend this moisturizer to anyone! It's a little pricey but it's totally worth it, and it lasts for awhile since you only use it once a day.

4. I have a little consumer rant to make that's been brewing and stewing for awhile and is ready to be released after I had to throw away about five of John's ties this week. I'm tired of the bias against boys' clothes by retailers, specifically when it comes to ties. I'm convinced that if girls wore ties, there would be a big selection of cute, well-designed, high-quality ties at all of the stores, there would be mall kiosks devoted to ties, and and there would probably even be little specialty shops for them. But girls don't wear ties (not most girls anyway), so those things don't happen.

It's hard to find good ties that are also good quality for boys. It's hard even just to find mediocre ties. The Children's Place sells some nice ties, and I've bought a lot of them there over the last few years for my sons, but they haven't held up well and therefore they're not very good quality. Almost all of John's ties from there have come apart after awhile and can't be knotted together again, or the clasp that holds the tie together has broken (hence the big toss-out this week). Target had some cute ties at Easter in the toddlers' section for the first time that I've seen, so I was able to get a few ties for Sam. I've looked other places multiple times over the years without success, at stores like Gymboree, Old Navy, Gap, and Lands' End. What the heck? Boys should have the opportunity to look nice too! Even if they don't care about that, their mothers do. Do you hear that, retailers?! Maybe I need to start writing some e-mails to the powers that be at these places!

P.S. If you have any good recommendations of places or websites to get good ties for boys, let me know! 

*I would include a picture here of John or Sam wearing a tie, but it will take me at least fifteen minutes to find one, and I don't have that kind of time right now. So just visualize a picture of a grinning blond, blue-eyed boy here wearing a tie. :-) 

 5. Check out this awesome classy flash mob! It's really touching and only two minutes long (though I wish it were longer!). I love the power and beauty of classical music!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birthday Weekend on Nantucket

Last summer for my birthday, I decided that I wanted my gift to be a weekend on the island of Nantucket. I've been to Martha's Vineyard a few times, but never to Nantucket, which is further out (30 miles) and even more posh and luxurious than the Vineyard. We were vacationing on Cape Cod anyway, so my mother stayed with the kids while Peter and I took the high-speed ferry to Nantucket and spent a fun weekend there.

I loved seeing the beauty and historic charm of Nantucket. It is such a nice place. Not so nice for me were two things: 1) I came down with a head cold halfway through our trip, and 2) I felt very un-posh at times being surrounded by so many super-posh, super-wealthy people. (Just a warning: the word "posh" is probably going to be way overused in this post. I think it already has been.) I wished that I had packed more stylish clothes! I wish I HAD more stylish clothes! I actually had a style epiphany because of that weekend: a woman of my age (31) really shouldn't be wearing flip-flops as part of an out-and-about outfit anymore. When I got home to Iowa a few weeks later, I went shoe-shopping and bought a few pairs of cute sandals that were better looking and more posh and more comfortable than flip-flops. Flip-flops are for the beach and for hanging around the yard for me now.

ANYWAY, that was a completely unexpected digression...back to Nantucket!

Did you know that Nantucket is the only place in America that is simultaneously an island, a county, and a town? It's only 14 by 3.5 miles. Even with that small size, it has its own airport. Nantucket is a national historic landmark because it has over 800 buildings that were built before 1850, which is the largest concentration of such buildings in the United States (I just plagiarized that from my guide book, but I admitted it and credited it by way of the link, so I'm good!). Another interesting fact is that there are no traffic lights on Nantucket. They're too modern and don't fit in with the feel of the island. How quaint!

We stayed at this cute bed and breakfast, The Carlisle House Inn. It was built in 1765 and was once a sea captain's house.
Our room was the top two windows on the left on the top floor.

It had a really pretty garden on the side of the property, and at night there were white lights strung up and glowing around the bushes and trees. It felt a little like A Midsummer Night's Dream

And do you know what was kind of cool? We stayed in Room 30, and right across the way was Room 31. The reason that was funny was because we were there to celebrate my birthday, and I was turning 31. Ha ha! I love it when little things like that happen!

One of the first things we did after we got to Nantucket was to go on a bus tour of the island. It didn't take very long since Nantucket is small. The bus tour guide was funny. She said that July is a better month than August for natives like her who work on the island because August is when the New Yorkers come and they tend to be pretty demanding and obnoxious. Ha ha! The New Englander in me thought that was great (and true!).

We saw the oldest house on the island, the Jethro Coffin House, which was built in 1686. That's old!

Shingles are popular on Nantucket. They're practically/actually mandated on many structures. 
This shingled windmill was pretty!

Even some of the churches are shingled.

These are some of the other sights we saw on the bus tour:

This was someone's garden. Wow!

This lighthouse is right by what is possibly the most exclusive golf course in the country. It's only open to certain Republicans who own a home on the island (I think?)--according to the tour guide, they wouldn't even let Bill Clinton play there when he was visiting. If that's not partisan snobbery then I don't know what is!

The downtown area is really nice. The streets are made from cobblestones--and many of them are the original cobblestones that were placed there centuries ago! I thought that was so cool. It was like walking on history itself. And the sidewalks are of course brick, not pavement or asphalt. What else for this dignified place?

The storefronts are all brick with shutters. And the shops are very nice (which is reflected by their prices!).

I was happy to find a great bookstore--Nantucket Bookworks, which I will definitely return to whenever we go back. And there was a good pharmacy on Main Street where I found some great soaps and bath products. Only at places like Nantucket would shopping in a pharmacy elicit some nice unique finds! I didn't go in any of the hat studios though. Because, you know, I don't do hats. And I'm not a man.

I spent a lot of time in the downtown area because I liked it. It had neat little alleyways and pretty views.

I got a kick out of some of the street names. Easy Street...yeah, you think?! Seriously, many of the people who vacation/summer/live here are the richest of the rich. I'm talking people like the billionaire chairman of Google and his wife (Eric and Wendy Schmidt), and Tommy Hilfiger (the king of preppy!), among others. There were lots of very posh-looking people with European/Russian accents too. If you think you're doing well financially, just go to a place like Nantucket for a slice of humble pie. Wealth is such a relative thing!

The houses in Nantucket are really pretty and many are historic. They are required to conform to strict standards and have certain features and look a certain way. In that sense Nantucket felt a bit like a dictatorship. It must be the influence of the Russians (just kidding!).

I liked the double stairways up to the front door on this house. Plus this house is just so New England and reminds me of my hometown of Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

A bunch of the houses have cute names.

"The Beehive"...could they be Mormon? Probably not, but we wondered.

Just a few more shots from wondering around:

Even the trashcans are cool! They're designed to look like old ship barrels.

I thought it was neat that in a number of places along the sidewalks, tree roots rise up underneath and they just build over it without uprooting the tree. Nantucket really doesn't like to destroy anything old. Which I think is awesome.

That's me! (In my unstylish flip-flops!)

One of my favorite things was going to the Nantucket Congregational Church, where we climbed 94 steps to the steeple to get 360-degree views of the island and ocean.

Tons of boats! 

The man who was volunteering at the church that day was really nice and he asked us a lot of questions about tithing and how it works in the LDS (Mormon) Church. Other churches are fascinated and inspired (and, as he said, a little envious) of the way the LDS Church has the money it does and how it's able to operate so well in part because of that. It's because of the faith and sacrifice of full tithe-payers all over the world! It was neat to share the principles of tithing with him. I thought it was funny and a little ironic that we were discussing tithing in Nantucket, of all places.

The church was built in 1834 and I loved its big beautiful windows.

A few final random things:

Check out this cool old house on stilts over the water, with a real live seagull perched on the chimney, no less.

How I love porches like this!

This was in someone's basement window at street level. I thought it was cute.

Unfortunately we didn't get to the beach at all during our stay, so we'll have to do that when we go again someday. Nantucket is supposed to have fantastic sunsets over its beaches.

It was a good weekend! We ate some delicious seafood, went on a fun ghost walk/history tour on Saturday night, met some very nice people, and enjoyed the unique, beautiful, and historic place that is Nantucket. I wonder if I can top all of that for my birthday this summer? That would be tough to do!