Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday / Shrove Tuesday

Mardi Gras. It’s the day before Lent when everybody goes on one last binge before starting the fast. There are floats, feathers and beads … drinking, dancing and singing … reveling, rioting and debauchery.

Not really my scene. Until I heard about …

... Shrove Tuesday. This is a version of Mardi Gras popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it’s celebrated by eating pancakes. In fact, it is often just called Pancake Day. PANCAKE DAY!! Now that’s a holiday that I can get behind. In honor of this auspicious occasion, IHOP is serving free all you can eat pancakes until close. Wa-hoo! So after school, it was dinner time.

My mom and I waited 30 minutes for a table. No problem though. I graded papers while she gabbed with strangers. Soon enough we were seated and got right down to the pancakes – along with a side of bacon, milk and “pure squeezed” orange juice.

The pancakes went quickly. Burp.

On the way out, we ran into Triniti and company who were also out celebrating.

Happy Pancake Day!

Total Cost: $5 for the bacon and beverages.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let Me Check My Calendar

About a week ago, on the way home from school, I stopped by the grocery store for milk, the book store for a magazine, and then headed straight home where I had a light supper, did a crossword puzzle, took a bath and went to be early. I felt great! …

Until the next day. That night while I was so blithely relaxing, I missed an extremely important appointment. I had no excuse. I just forgot. I knew then -- it was time for a calendar.

I needed a calendar with some very specific qualities:
* It needed to be small enough to take everywhere.
* It needed to be small on art, large on writing space.
* It needed to have space for daily appointments and room for do-lists, shopping-lists, and idea-lists.
* It needed to be cheap.

So here is what I found.
At the drugstore I found a small mead brand notebook. The only color they had was orange which was unfortunate … until I decided to supplement with a Rhodia notebook of similar size.

So, now I'll never forget another extremely important appointment – unless I forget to write it down.

Total cost: $10 for calendar, notebook and pen

Monday, February 16, 2009

Up, Up and Away

Well, I did it. I climbed the stairs at the U.S. Bank building to raise money for the America Lung Association. And … it wasn’t so bad.

After several weeks of “training” I was ready to go. (I prepared by taking the stairs at school instead of the elevator.) The morning of, I took my water bottle and envelope of donations, picked up my sister -- who was going along as moral support -- and headed downtown.

When we got there, we were directed to take the elevator to lobby – which I thought was sort of ironic.

In the lobby, I turned in my donations, picked up my t-shirt and got my number. Miss Waukesha signed me in. How great/funny is that?

After a brief warm-up, I was off to the start. They had us line up in bib order, because they were starting us in waves according to how fast or slow we might be. So they let us go in groups of ten, and then we made our way to the basement. I probably would have gotten lost, but there were volunteers all along the way to point us in the right direction.

Finally in the basement, we again lined up in bib order where they let us start up the stairs one by one in ten second intervals. I had to laugh at the countdown (shown below). The start guy counted down very deliberately “ 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … GO!” and then the person would saunter to the steps and start up … very … slowly. Maybe earlier in the day there was a mad dash to start, but not with this group.

At last it was my turn to start.

ouch. ouch. ouch.
My legs were on fire, my mouth was dry and my back ached … and I was only up to the fourth floor. So, I didn’t start out well, but after about seven stories, the pain subsided and I began to enjoy myself (really). One thing that helped was looking for my name. They had put up a piece of paper for each participant with their name and a motivational message. Unfortunately, they ran out of names half way up. Then there was nothing but stairwell to look at.

The other climbers were really fun to talk to. I met one lady – Barb – an we walked together for a couple minutes. She kept telling me that she wasn’t competitive and that she was going to stop and rest as often as she needed to, after all, there was no reason to kill herself. I thought that was a pretty sensible philosophy – especially since we had to sign a waiver saying that we wouldn’t sue if we did die. (Yes I know I look awful in this picture ... that's because I felt awful.)

At last I could see the end. I made it! I could just see it in my mind – walking through the door onto the observation deck, helping myself at a banana and bagel bar, laughing about the experience with other climbers.

No such luck. I came through the door, was handed a medal and a bottle of water then steered immediately through another door into a boiler room. From there, straight back to the freight elevator and back down to the lobby. (sigh) Not the most romantic end to a stair climb, but it makes for a good story.

So that was it. Not too bad. I met up with Nora in the lobby where I showed off my medal and got a snack. Also, I spent a few minutes chatting with some firefighters who were about to head up the stair in full gear. Yikes.

On the way to the car I ran into Ali (one of my students). She was just on her way in. And so the process whole process starts over again. It was a great morning.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I ♥ Valentines Day

Actually, I am not really a huge fan of Valentines Day – as far a romance goes. But I do like its creative side. I like the idea of making cards and gifts out of things that are just lying around the house and then giving them away anonymously (of course).

Here are some crafty type ideas I found on line.

Design Mom

So, I picked one of these ideas and made it using stuff I already had around the apartment – I just had to buy glue. So if you get a mysterious Valentine, it might be from me!

Total Cost:
$1 for the glue

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mission Day

Last Friday was “Mission Day” for the faculty and staff at school. This is a day set aside every year for us to focus on the mission of the school. Sometimes this is done through classes, sometimes through lectures and sometimes through group discussion. But this year was different. This year they had us go out to one of ten charities and do service for a day. Some of the places we had to choose from were the Sojourner Truth House, Repairs of the Breach, St. Vincent DePaul, etc. You have probably already guessed that I went to Sojourner Truth House.

The Sojourner Truth House is a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. They have housing facilities as well as support and education programs for the women. For the children, there are on site activities and a day-care-type of service for those too young to go to school.

We (my coworkers and I) spent the better part of the day in the children’s area playing with four super cute kids. We read books, ate snacks, built block towers and danced to Miley Cyrus music. The kids were great – friendly, energetic, happy. One little boy had the greatest laugh – it was part laugh, part squeal of delight. One of the girls kept calling to me to see what she was doing – since she couldn’t remember my name, she would just say “hey you in the brown shirt ….”

I have to admit that I felt a little guilty. We had come to work but ended up playing the whole day. But then I realized – if we play with the children, then the ladies who usually play with them could get some other important projects done. That made me feel better. We were serving the people who serve others.

So, it was a great day. GREAT. I’m so glad that I work for an organization that values service so highly.

For more information on Sojourner Truth, and why it is so appropriate to have a women's shelter named for her, visit this website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Membership Has It’s Privileges

The other night I went to an opening at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Actually, I went with Marisa, because she is a member of the museum, and the event was free to members and their guests. The whole thing was FAN-tastic. The artist was Jan Lievens whose story I found rather interesting.

Jan Livens was a Dutch painter who lived at the same time and in the same area as Rembrandt -- they even studied under the same master. Lievens work was known for being very progressive and highly varied. In fact, many experts argue that Lievens was the initiator of some artistic developments that were later attributed to Rembrandt. Lievens also had a special ability to paint faces and became a highly sought after portrait artist. He spent much of his career traveling around Europe painting commissions for royalty. I heard one docent say that all of his traveling might be the reason why he was not well know after he died -- he didn't stay in one place long enough to get a real following, whereas Rembrandt did. Anyway, that's pretty much what I know about him. If you're interested, there's a lot more information on the museums website.

So here’s how the evening went. When we got there, people were mingling enjoying the music being played by high school and elementary students. They weren’t perfect, but they were very cute.

Here is Marisa enjoying the ambiance.

Since we couldn’t take pictures inside, I got this picture just before going into the gallery. (The following four pictures can from the museum’s website.)

One of Lievens specialties was portraits. This is "Boy in Cape and Turban" and I have to admit that it is pretty good. I wonder what I would look like if Lievens painted my portrait.

The model for this painting of a lute player was none other that Rembrandt himself.

This is a painting of Prince Charles Louis and his tutor, but Lievens “dressed them up” as the young Alexander the Great with his tutor Aristotle. This was one of my favorites – the prince's cape shimmers. Beautiful. (Also, look at the size of the book he’s reading.)

This piece is a representation of Samson and Delilah. Wow. That is not how I would have pictured the biblical seductress. I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Marisa left early to go to a class, so I wandered around the gallery alone for quite a while. After I emerged from the exhibit and made a short stop in the gift shop, I found the most beautiful appetizer bar -- complimentary of course.
I had … this stuff.

After attending a lecture, I stopped to pose with the artist.

Jan Lievens – self portrait.

Total Cost: $0
Membership really does have its privileges.

Thanks Marisa!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting Ready for Valentines Day

On Valentines Day, I am going to be participating in "Climb Wisconsin" to help raise money for the American Lung Assoccation. That means I am going to take the stairs to the top of the US Bank building. So this past week I have been preparing for it by going up and down the stairs at Atwater Beach (ouch). It's gonna be great!

Would you like to make a donation?