Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Whiiiiite Christmas!

Tuesday I started writing about why I love the holiday season, so if you missed Part 1, you can read it here.


I know they’re all kind of mixed together, the traditions and reasons why I love the holiday season, but bear with me, I tend to write as though I am having a conversation with myself. I am not crazy, promise. I don’t talk out loud to different selves while I write.

Anyway, another tradition I love is all of the Christmas specials. A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Santa Clause is Coming to Town. I love them so much, that one year, I bought a couple of boxed sets that had those in them! With the exception of How the Grinch Stole Christmas which I bought separately, they were all in there. A Charlie Brown Christmas was actually in a boxed set with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. So now the holiday movie tradition is to watch the Great Pumpkin on Halloween, CB Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving night.  Of course, after hosting my first Thanksgiving this year, I almost slept through the whole thing.

While I was in school, Christmas break was a wonderful time to chill out, not deal with school and hang out with family. I loved that. Now that I am growed up, this will be the first Christmas that I don’t have 2-4 weeks off around the holidays. (I have 5 days this year, but I am perfectly ok with it, because it’s more than many others in the work force have and I am just glad to have a job at this point.) Those 4 weeks were mighty handy for our first 2 Christmases as a married couple. We spent a week at each family’s house, changing at noon-ish on Christmas Day.  It worked out perfect.

We exchanged gifts just the two of us before we left to go family visiting in front of our tiny tree, and then we alternate whose house we are at on Christmas morning. For example, the first year we were married on Christmas we spent the week preceding Christmas, and Christmas morning with my parents and brothers.  Then after a quick trip out to the grandparents’ house to see them and my Uncle and his family, we would head to the next town over to see his parents, sister and grandparents for the afternoon and the next week.  It was really nice to be able to unwind and see everyone for a longer period of time than the 48-72 hours we would have otherwise on weekends home where we were trying to jam both families into a weekend, which is really hard when you’re as close to your family as we both are to ours.

It makes the holidays difficult, not being with our families as much as we would like this year. Both my sister-in-law and the older of my younger brothers now work in retail and the restaurant industry, respectively, so the time off they get is varied, and super hard to coordinate so that when my sister-in-law is at my in-laws so are we, and when my brother is at my parents so are we. Often they have the same time off as each other and we get them each for only 24 hours of the 48 they have off.

In spite of that little hitch of growing up, I still love getting to spend the holidays with family.  We (Adam, Tesla and I) are all a family now, and so we are creating our own holiday memories too, which I hold equally as dearly!

When we hung lights outside on Friday, we tied Tesla up outside so she could wander around while we worked on our house.

I can't find the picture I took at night to go with it, so here is one that is pretty anyway! It turned out pretty good.

And we trimmed the tree...

All lit up!

See the pretty silver and white stocking? That one's mine :D

And hung a few light strands and garlands around the house.


Living room/TV stand

When we were living in Mount Pleasant, the apartment was oddly shaped so there were vast blank spaces.  Well, around Christmas, I would have none of that.  So I strung lights around the ceiling of the entire apartment. Hallway, office, living room, kitchen and dining room all had lights and silver garland strung up where ceiling met wall.  On the entertainment center we don’t have any more, we strung a garland of fake greens twined with lights across the top. Fortunately, we were able to still use the same garland, but it’s a little bit modified to fit the smaller stand.

Basically, living in a smaller space has caused us to have a few strands of leftover lights, and A LOT of leftover silver garland.  I could have strung them around the house along the ceiling, but it felt like overkill.  I wanted it to be tasteful, but obvious, that we heart Christmas.

So, if you have any suggestions for what I can use the leftover lights and garland for, let me know!!

Happy Holiday decorating!

It's Beginning to Look (and sound!) a lot Like Christmas!

I don’t know if y’all have heard the forecast for the Lansing area tonight and tomorrow and for several days after, but we are in for some storms! 

I love snow. It’s pretty and fluffy and makes all of the trees that have lost their leaves beautiful again. And it means Christmas is coming! (*EDIT* We now have about 4")

I enjoy the Christmas season so much. I have wonderful fond memories of the Holiday season from my childhood and I have more that I have made since I moved out of my parents’ house.

Everyone is always just so happy and cheerful during the Holiday season. All smiles and glitter! I know that many people feel pressured to be happy around the holidays, but I do not. I am just so damn happy around the holidays! I am almost giddy with joy. I always hope that I infect as many people with my smiles and laughter around this time as I can, without being pushy. Sure, I have my ups and downs during the weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but on the whole, I bounce back pretty easily because it’s Christmas.

There are many reasons I love this season, some of them new, some of them old, and some of them are now just awesome memories of a wonderful season.

One tradition growing up was that the house did not get decorated for Christmas in anyway until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Ever. And I loved that. I still love that. Now that I have a household of my own, I still wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate. Of course, I decorate on Friday instead of Saturday, because I am not patient in any sense of the word, but I wait. I also wait until after Thanksgiving to start listening to Christmas music.  I tried listening to Christmas music early one year and it just felt weird. Waiting heightens the anticipation and excitement.  The joy, the wonder!  I think that goes for not just the music, but the decorations as well. So, for my Black Friday shopping I braved the crowds on Amazon to download 100 Christmas songs for $5. It was pretty harrowing – whew!

Another tradition/fond memory that I have from my childhood that I love to look back on, is the annual indoor hide and seek game.  Every year, whatever leftover decorations from decorating the tree we had, lights, garland, etc., us kids would get to put in our rooms to bring a little Christmas cheer to our rooms too.  After we hung all the decorations and put our snow globes out, we would wait for darkness to fall.  Then, after dinner, my brothers and I would play Christmas Light Hide and Seek.  Basically, it’s hide and seek in our house, upstairs, with the door to the upstairs closed and only the strands of lights in our rooms to see by.  And the night light in the bathroom, but that doesn’t count.

We had so much fun playing that game. It was a great time for all.  Sometimes we would play more than once a year, if we had friends over or something. With only the three of us, it wasn’t too much of a challenge and with extra people it got a little more complicated. I remember one time I hid in the bathtub, which isn’t a fantastic hiding spot, but I took a white sheet with me and stretched it out taught so that it would just look like the bottom of the tub if you didn’t look too closely.  It worked. I loved it!  

Another time, when my youngest brother was three or four, he hid between the sink and the bathtub in the shower curtains and we couldn’t find him for a half hour! We even went downstairs to check if he had hidden down there, even though it was an unwritten rule that downstairs was off-limits. (The stairs were fair game, but not a very good hiding spot!) Little stinker. And one of the times that I remember having a friend of Matthew’s over, he folded himself up and tucked himself under the table by the phone!

Good times, good times…..

When I was growing up we would always go to the decoration Sunday at the church I grew up in.  When I was younger, I would hang with the kids while we did Christmas-y crafts in the Fellowship Hall and the adults would decorate the sanctuary and the annex.  As I got into middle and high school I would kind of split my time between the two. I really enjoyed both activities, and fortunately, I kind of got to have my cake and eat it too. [Side note: I’ve never really understood where that phrase comes from. I obviously know what it means and how to use it, but it’s still weird.]

I also love going to Christmas Eve Services. The place is packed to the rafters and everyone is excited to see you, especially if you’re home from college for the holiday! And when the lights in the sanctuary are turned off and all you see are candles held aloft with the glow of the Advent candles and the Christmas tree behind the organ, it’s just magical while we sing ‘Silent Night’ a capella as a congregation.  

Another tradition that has been modified since Adam and I have gotten married is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” after the Christmas Eve Service. I got it on DVD so it’s pretty portable and last year Adam and I watched it on my laptop, I think. We were at his parents’ last year for Christmas morning.

Wow, I just looked over this post and it is massively long! Hm. I guess I will wrap it up and continue tomorrow with more!

What are some of your favorite pre-Christmas traditions? Why do you love (or hate) the holiday season?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful (a little late)

I am thankful for a lot this year, my mom still being here, and the rest of my family and my still semi-new in-law family.

For my amazing friends who I love so much. (Who I get to see a few of today!!)

For this wonderful tiny house that got us out of a bad place, in more than one way.  And we have wonderful landlords who have been so great.  Including leaving a bottle of bubbly in the fridge with a note welcoming us home on the day we moved in.

I am thankful for Weight Watchers.  Yes, Weight Watchers.  I have learned so much by going to those meetings.  And there is something oddly comforting to going to meetings with people who are fighting the same demons that I am.  And, with everything that I have learned since March 2010, I have lost 36.2 lbs.  Today's Weigh-in not withstanding.  I love to stare at the chart of my weight loss.  It's so pretty!  And I love the diagonal line going doooooooooown to the right! :D

I am thankful for the place I am in my life right now.  I have a job, I have a wonderful family, friends and the best, most supportive husband in the world.  I have a smart, adorable but needy dog.  I have a house that I was able to decorate for Christmas yesterday! I have my health and food on the table.

And it's still looking up, even with Student Loans coming due!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Jensens and Tesla!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Changes I would make to Google Calendar if I were a Developer

I love Google and their products. I think I’ve made that pretty clear.  When they first started rolling out changes to their products, I was unsure about the new format of a lot of things. I had finally spent some time getting all of the services I use the most set up just the way I liked it.

But, trying to be less rigid, I switched early so that if I absolutely hated it, I could go back until they made me switch.  Lo and behold, once I got used to it, I really liked it.  The look is cleaner, more modern and I could keep my background image in Gmail.

Now for calendar.  I have always loved Calendar, it’s a fantastic tool that my neurotic organizational side really loves on.  Different colors for each calendar I have control over, plus different colors for each calendar that is shared with me? Um, yes please!  Sharing with my nearest and dearest without having to make copies of my calendar and then call them with changes? Certainly!  Smart Re-scheduler and the Free or Busy tool so I can find a time that works with everyone when I initially create an event; or have to re-schedule due to an unexpected conflict? AWESOME!  I need to call my mom, but she’s in a meeting.  Calendar tells me! Trying to find a weekend to go visit the parents or in-laws? Boom, done. I could go on like this for hours. I need help. Right, well, changes to the new calendar format.

Calendar as is, as of 18 November 2011

Based on my own desires out of Google Calendar and what I have read on forums about the recent changes, here are my suggestions.  And please, feel free to chime in in the comments!  If it’s a great suggestion, I’ll add it to the list!

1. Space

The number one thing I saw on forums (so Google Developers saw it too) was that a lot of people thought there was a lot of wasted space.  I don’t use my calendar for work, so I didn’t really notice how much extra space there was that could really make the calendar area bigger with less intrusion from wasted white space until I looked hard at the layout after reading those comments.

So first, I suggest that you make the search box, when not actively typing in it, smaller width wise so it is only as wide as the ‘Search Calendar’ text and make the “search” button smaller.  I like the symmetry of the button, but I don’t think it needs to be such wide symmetry.  Maybe even bump the search button right up to the search bar. 

With those changes, then you can move the ‘Day, Week….Print, Refresh’ bar up next to the search bar on the right side.  Then move the ‘Today’ button, the Left and Right Arrow Buttons and the Viewing Date up between the smaller search box and the ‘Day, Week…Print, Refresh’ buttons.

Boom, more height space.

And finally to add more space add a collapsible button to the left side of the calendar so you can hide, ‘My Calendars’, ‘Other Calendars’ and the Full Month Calendar and have more width space.

Bam. So easy!

If you don’t want to have the ‘Create’ button disappear when the right side is collapsed, then just move it up next to the ‘Calendar’ text/button!  This also could be moved up to be in line with the ‘search bar’ and the other buttons.  I personally don’t use the create button very often, if ever, but I am sure that as little as I use it, there is someone out there who uses it all the time and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them!

And, finally I have a serious desire to see this last part implemented.

So, Google developer, if you’re reading this, first, Hi! Then second, PLEASE(!!!!) implement this change!  I use several Labs features in calendar and I hate (yes, hate) having those automatically go on the right side.  I would much rather have the option, either by drag and drop or otherwise, to have everything on one side and arrange it to my pleasing.  Please don’t make my flair hide because I don’t want to have my calendar shrunk so I don’t have to have a teeny tiny calendar to be able to see those options!

With spacing changes, pre-left side collapse

2. Colors

So many people are pissed about the color change to the pastels that we have access to now, than the darker colors from before.  I get that, I do.  Except, I have so many calendars that I follow, my own (I have 4 of my own that are currently active and at one point this summer I had 6), several friends, my parents, my husband, the Red Wings, the Tigers, Holidays (Christian and Irish) and a few others.  I feel restricted by how few colors there are.  I want everyone’s calendars to have a distinct color and a different one for each of my own.  There was also one gentleman in the forums who color codes each event in his individual calendar based on how much commitment he had to go to it. Red for not required, Yellow for need to go, but details aren’t finalized and green for all set, need to go and details are finalized.  Smart.

My solution is very simple.  At least to me, I don’t know about a programming point of view.  But my solution is this: instead of only select colors of a certain palette (pastel, primary, secondary, etc) give us a color wheel.  All of the colors, ever.  Like in Paint or Photoshop or Blogger.

3. Making ‘Today’ more obvious.

I’m fine with ‘Today’ being grey in calendar, I usually use Calendar on my phone anyway so it pops right up to the most current day.  But other people aren’t happy with it.  So I suggest leaving the gray, but adding a border of a darker or brighter color, like black or yellow and thickening the border around ‘Today’.

Those are my changes and I’m sticking to ‘em.

All changes (except the color wheel, because obviously, I can't do that with Paint and the extra emphasis on the 'today' because I didn't do it, that's why.)

If you have any other suggestions, drop them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My First Time....

The lights were bright

I asked him to turn them off

He did.

It hurt.

He comforted me

I was nauseous

                                               He held my hand

                                                                                                I didn't know what was happening.

I was light-headed
I slept 

He got me a cold cloth and Excedrin.

I slept more.

I had a  migraine.

Why?  What did you think I was talking about?

So Pumped

I am a Lions fan and have been for my whole life.  I'm a Detroit sports girl through and through.  The Wings are my flagship, but I root for all the teams in the D, even though basketball isn't my favorite sport.  The last several years as a Lions fan have been damn depressing, but I would just shake my head and follow them anyway.  Watching the Lions game on Thanksgiving is a family tradition.

But there is a freaking awesome commercial starring Drew Brees and the NO Saints that is on TV right now and I love it.

The look on Mario's face at the end is hilarious, and the chant pumps you up, even if you have nothing to be pumped up for.  Enjoy!

Transcript below!

Brees: 1;
Chorus: 2
Brees: Win;
Chorus: For You
Brees: 3;
Chorus: 4
Brees: Win;
Chorus: Some More
Brees: 5;
Chorus: 6
Brees: Win;
Chorus: For Kicks
Brees: 7;
Chorus: 8
Brees: Win;
Chorus: It’s Great
Brees: 9;
Chorus: 10
Brees: Win;
Chorus: Again
All: Again, Again, Again, Again!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Etiquette Tips for the Theatre Audience

On Sunday Adam and I went to see West Side Story at the Wharton Center.  I wanted to see it live because I hate the movie, but I love Stephen Sondheim and I wanted to reconcile my two halves.  I like it way better live.  Way better.  As in, don't even bother with the movie.

But that is not the point of this post.  The point is that I have been to enough live theatre shows, and been in enough shows that I know what is the biggest pain in the ass about live audiences.

First, when they say turn off your phone,  Do it.  There is absolutely NOTHING that pisses me off more than when a phone goes off, especially at a pivotal moment in the show.

Example 1: Les Liaisons Dangereuses (based on a novel of the same name which was also the basis for the Dangerous Liaisons movie and Cruel Intentions) at Central Michigan University, spring of the 2009-2010 season.  *Spoiler Alert Ahead* The end of the show when the Vicomte dies, a phone starts to ring three seats away from me.

Example 2: Today during West Side Story.  *Spoiler Alert Ahead* Maria and Tony are saying good night at the end of their version of the balcony scene (synonymous with the one in Romeo and Juliet, which the musical is based on) and a phone goes off.

Example 3: Dead Man's Cell Phone for which I ran lights last season at Central.  From the light booth, you can see everything.  I mean everything.  Including the people who have their phones out and are texting during the show.  And from the Grand Tier in Great Cobb Hall, I can see you on the floor.  And you can sure as hell bet that the crew in the booth behind me can see you too.  The light from your phone is distracting and it's rude.

Second, do NOT talk when the actors are talking.  Or singing. Or anything is happening on stage, whether you think it is important or not.

Example 1: Everyman, the show I was in last season at Central.  We were in Theatre on the Side, and there were, I think, only 100 seats for every show and we sold out every one.  Very close quarters and we were all up in the audience's grill.  Which means we can see you very well.  And we wonder why you aren't paying attention. Also, WE CAN HEAR YOU.

Example 2: I went to see Les Mis with my friend Shannon and her sister and brother-in-law last March.  The woman in front of us would NOT sit still.  She kept wriggling around and talking to her neighbor. GAH.

If you have to say something, get your mouth so close to the person's ear your lips are almost touching their ear lobe and then whisper so quietly that no one but them can hear you.  You shouldn't even be able to see you.

Third, get there on time and don't leave the seating area unless there is a real emergency.  Pee before you get to your seat, or run to the bathroom the second the first act is over.  If you think you're going to be late, run to your door. RUN, FORREST, RUN!

Example 1: Les Mis.  They were still seating people 10-15 minutes into the show, non-stop.  Not even waiting for applause after songs to rush a whole bunch of people in.  And the same after intermission!  Ridiculous!

Example 2: Everyman.  100 seat theatre people, that is completely dark.  We can see it when the door opens.  And it is really freaking loud when you close it.

Fourth, and for the moment, last, souvenir line etiquette.  Do not cut in line. It is not hard to figure out where the line is.  There are a ton of people milling around and very few standing still in the big area where the cart is. Follow the line of non-moving people until you get to the end, it is not cool to cut in line when there are people who have been waiting for 10 minutes already. Don't do it.

Well, I hope that this helps any and all theatre goers, and feel free to pass this on to anyone who does not do these things appropriately.

What irks you about inconsiderate theatre goers? Leave it in the comments!

Friday, November 11, 2011

FF - Favorite Blogs I Follow

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie

I've been waiting to write this until she started blogging again, which she has recently, yay!!.   I believe I found her blog through the 2010 Bloggies and it was the most hilarious one that I found.  I spent an entire weekend reading through her archives because she was so funny.  Had I been drinking milk during any of them, it would have come out through my nose.  Even her most recent post is funny, even though she is talking about her struggle with depression.  Which is not funny, and I felt so bad for laughing at her post, but she is so funny and I love to read her blog!

2. Marriage Confessions by Katie and Chris

Watching their little family grow has been wonderful.  Katie shares their ups and downs in such a personable way, I look forward to each and every post.  Even the ones that talk about child rearing that are irrelevant to me right now.  She has so much love and happiness in her life and her kids are so adorable!  Gracie totally looks like her mama, smiley and pretty lady!

3. Living Like the Kings by Kat

There is no favoritism being showed here, Peanut is so freaking adorable, I can't wait to see what she'll do next!  I just want to pinch her cheeks and make gurgling baby noises at her!

4. The Ex-Pat Bride by Sarah

She doesn't post often, at least since I have started following her, but I love her blog.  We have, I think, a lot in common.  Sarah and Mr. Darcy just returned from their pre-wedding honeymoon, which they won!  I can't wait to hear how it went!  Oh, and she's moving to England.  ENGLAND. This chick is jealous.

5. Fat Cyclist by Elden

He inspires me to be a better person with every post and giveaway that he does to help raise money to fight cancer.  His first wife died from cancer several years ago and I am not sorry to admit, I cried like a baby when I read that.  He is a funny, poignant wonderful blogger.  And his guest bloggers are funny and tell great stories (that's right Paul, I'm looking at you).  And his wife The Hammer is pretty cool.  And the IT Guy, the twins and The Swimmer kick some butt too.  And he has a book coming out and you can pre-order it on PayPal.  Go read him.  Like, now.

What are your fav blogs to read?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our pretty baby

So I posted yesterday about a whole bunch of changes that have been happening in our lives.  Today we get to see more of one of those changes, our dog Tesla.

She's a boxer mix.

Who's about a year and a half old.

She's so smart, we worked on 'stay' tonight, and she stayed for a full minute!  Of course I didn't want to push it, so I called her over after that.  She's so good!

She's funny. And super sweet.

Just love on her and all these pictures!!

Baby girl! :D

Monday, November 7, 2011

Whoa! Crazy Train!

Quick updates!

I have been so super busy that blogging kind of fell to the wayside!  I have been made full time at work, temporarily, but with how busy I've been I am hoping that they will keep me at full time past the end of this month.

We also moved into a house. Renting, but we are living in a house and we LOVE it.  Pictures are coming!

Aaaaaaand for the biggest news: We got a dog!  She's a beautiful boxer mix who's about a year and a half old.  She had her first vet appointment tonight and she is a healthy girl!  Her name is Tesla Katherine, named for the wife of Nikola Tesla who invented the Tesla Coil. We start obedience classes on Saturday.  Many pictures and adventures with her to come!

How've you been?