Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer is here for sure (Part 1)

I guess I kind of thought that I had been back here since the Color Run.

Apparently not. Well, other than book reviews.

Oops.

I've been busy to say the least. We had one down week and then the concerts started up in full force. First up was Country USA. It was a fun but draining festival. The first night was Eric Church and the traffic was something out of a horror film. I've been going to this fest for years now and I've never encountered anything like it. We were coasting on fumes by hour 3 of parking lot standstill. It had rained so there was mud everywhere. It was not good. Then they pushed back the start time for EC until 11:30 p.m. On a Tuesday night. And we were going to work in the morning. We didn't get home until 3 am. That *really* set the exhaustion train in motion.

After that I had one day to recover before working one day and heading down to Chicago to catch a flight to Dallas the next day. Of course I didn't get into Chicago until midnight and spent a few hours hanging with my brother and mother in law.

I can't believe my Dallas trip came and went so fast. I bought those plane tickets back in late March...wow.

Anyway, we packed a LOT into a short 2.5 day trip. My dad and step-mom were nice enough to just let me crash in their room since it had a pull out couch. This trip was a part of my grandma's bucket list and so we hit the ground running as soon as we got the luggage in the room. On Tuesday we went to the site of JFK's assassination. I had been there once before with my dad when we got stranded in Dallas in the winter after a snow storm back when I was a sophomore in high school. It was nice to get a fresh look at this historical place as an adult.

The 6th Floor Book Depository museum tour was a huge step back in time. It's hard to describe. I mean, you are *there*. When traffic allows, you can run out into the street and stand where the fatal shot hit. It's eerie.{side bar: if you have the chance, do this. It's a self guided audio tour with a LOT of media, insight, theories, facts, etc. I found $2 off pp coupons online and that made the cost a little better. Make sure to allow at least 2-3 hours to really go through the exhibit and to visit the grassy knoll and to view pictures of the Xs that mark the spot of when the bullets hit Governor Connelly and the President}

After the tour we ate lunch at Hoffbrau Steaks in the really cool Dallas West End. Now, the only other time I had spent any time in Dallas outside of either of the airports, it was winter. And about 15 years ago. I'm not sure how new this trendy neighborhood is but I liked it a lot. The Dart transport rail system runs right through it and there were tons of food and shopping options that I saw. As for lunch, I ate the Dr Pepper Chicken Sandwich and it was fabulous. I wish I would have thought to ask if they sell that Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce in bottles. It was finger lickin'!

We then took a drive over to Cowboys Stadium to buy our tickets for the VIP tour of the stadium for the next day. Just the first glimpse into this monster was enough to know that this stadium is unlike any other. Oh my. Once we got back to the hotel we hit the pool for a couple of hours before eating a small dinner and crashing for the evening.

The next morning we were up bright and early, ready to take the 10 am tour of Cowboys Stadium (Bucket list item #2 of the trip). Now, almost exactly five months to the day earlier I had taken my first football stadium tour at Lambeau Field for my stepdad's birthday. What Lambeau has in charm, CS has in extravagance. If you're a football fan you have heard all about this stadium. You know it's big. You know it's grand. But you just can't put into words how big, how grand, how over the top this place actually is. It's insane. The jumbo tron is a 7 story building alone. Those four corner speakers hanging from the rafters? They're the size of an 18 wheeler each. Those side glass windows in the end zones? They're actually silent doors that can open to make the stadium feel like it's an outdoor stadium. The turf rolls up in five foot sections and each section weighs 8,000 lbs. All the bathrooms can be reconfigured based on the event. So for Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber they switched the bathrooms to be 80% female and 20 % male...and the reverse for the monster truck show. How incredible (and, hello!, smart) is that?! I don't want to spoil it all so I'll stop there. But it was worth the money for the VIP option over the self guided tour. The VIP gave us access to Jerry Jones' personal near-field suite and to a VIP luxury suite as well as showing us the outside of the press room. What I liked a lot better than Lambeau was the fact that this tour ended on the field and unlike Lambeau, you are allowed to have fun on the field. Bring a football and pass it back and forth, kick a field goal, dive in the end zone, it's all allowed.

Once we left CS, we went back to the hotel and went back in the pool again for a nice cool off before heading out to do Bucket list #3 on Grandma's list: catching a baseball game at the Ballpark at Arlington. I've loved this stadium from afar for a long time now. I've always wanted to go. It's so Dixieland/Americana looking. I love watching the movie The Rookie for the scenes of when Jim Morris got his call to the majors. Anyway, the stadium was great, the game intense. The Rangers sadly lost in the 10th but it was still worth it. I got to try a new food item, garlic fries, and they were delicious. My dad laughed at me for printing this out but I'm so glad I did because after I consulted my trusty "map" and hunted them down, I got stopped every 5 feet asking where I got them from. Here's the awesome listing of what foods can be found where at the ballpark: Concessions. **Disclaimer: this list could be outdated because I don't see it say Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ items and I saw (and smelled - YUM) them right by our seats. But the garlic fries were for sure found at section 41 that's for sure!!

After the game we crashed at the hotel. I had an early ass flight back to Chicago in the morning unfortunately. The rest of the crew was headed back to Amarillo.

Once back in Chicago, I picked up my MIL and we drove up to WI. The boys (K, FIL, BIL) had been enjoying a boys week filled with motorcycle riding and lord knows what else. We went to our local fireworks store and picked up a few fun explosives ;-) and blew those up before hitting the sack.Then we spend an enjoyable 3 more days hanging out together and enjoying the summer. I love those long weekends with family. Yes, my house gets destroyed. Yes, we stay up too late and wake up too early. But I love it.

After that, it was back to work for a full week and then a "down" weekend. You know, those "down" weekends where you scramble to do as many things around the house that you possibly can? Plus then spend one of those days preparing your camper for the following week's festivities? Yeah, that was "relaxing."  Insert sad part of this weekend:

I got the call from my mom that I knew was coming. My beloved Great-Uncle Joe had passed away. With the wake set for Monday afternoon and the funeral on Tuesday, my week became that much more crazy. I went to work for a half day on Monday and then busted my butt down to Chicago to get to the wake. The only nice thing about funerals is getting to catch up with family that you don't get to see enough of. My Uncle Joe was a fabulous man. He was so patient. He was the biggest Bear fan. He always came to watch my softball games. He loved dogs. He and my aunt were avid golfers until the leukemia finally wore him down too much to golf. And man, he fought that disease. He had a very rare form of it too but he fought for close to a decade. He will be greatly missed. I love Uncle Joe.

....Part 2 and Pictures coming soon...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The First Husband

The First HusbandThe First Husband by Laura Dave

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book begins by introducing us to Annie Adams, a writer living in California with her longtime love Nick. She is a successful, globe trotting travel journalist. On the surface, life seems well, it seems to be on track. On track to what…that’s still TBD. Forgetting the storied history she has with the movie, Annie decides to watch Roman Holiday. And from there, the story is born.

You see, Roman Holiday has been the catalyst to many negative memories for her. So when Nick decides that they should break up instead of getting engaged after a viewing of the movie, she can’t really say she’s all that surprised. After crying on the shoulder of her best friend Jordan, who also happens to be Nick’s sister, she takes some advice and decides that she is going to be the opposite of herself.

And that is where we meet Griffin. A chance midnight meeting turns into a world wind rebound relationship that culminates in a Vegas wedding and a cross-country move to Griffin’s hometown where he is opening a restaurant. It is here that Annie begins to falter in her new life outlook.

Facing Griffin’s crazy family drama, unemployment, and exes coming out of the woodwork on both ends, she hardly knows what end is up. She struggles to keep her sanity and to find out what she really wants for her future. Before she can commit to this new life, she has to be sure that her old life is over, and that what she thought her future would hold might be completely opposite.

This book was fairly enjoyable. It’s fluffy at times. It’s frustrating at times. It’s impulsive and throws caution to the wind but at the same time, characters drag out their own drama and angst. I think that is what bothered me. It was as if no one could figure out how to keep the train on the tracks at times. The end is satisfactory and largely predictable but I think it is fitting. Sometimes we all just have to go outside of our comfort zone to find out more about ourselves

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Eat a Cupcake

How to Eat a CupcakeHow to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Annie and Julia used to be best friends. Scratch that. They used to practically be sisters. Never mind the fact that Julia’s parents employed Annie’s single mother as their nanny and they lived in the guest cottage – it didn’t matter to the girls growing up. Then high school happened. Jealousy and growing pains tore the girls’ relationship apart and they went on their own paths for the next decade.

After suffering a sad twist of fate (and spoiler alert: warning to all those infertile women or women that suffered a miscarriage), Julia finds herself reevaluating her life and heads back to her native San Francisco to plan her engagement to quite possibly the world’s most understanding man. An intervening force brings her and Annie back together, although very reluctantly on Annie’s part.  Needing a break from her normal life, Julia proposes that they go into business together by opening up a cupcakery with Julia handling the business end and Annie delivering in the kitchen. Much to her own surprise, Annie finds herself agreeing to the idea. From there, Treat is born. Annie tells herself that she only has to get through Julia’s wedding and Julia will be on her merry way and out of her life for good again.

The book moves along quite nicely and along the way, the girls have to navigate a series of missteps, mysteries, and misunderstandings. Both are searching for something that they had in their childhood…something that maybe only being together will bring it back to life. Understanding each other and their shared past is the key to moving forward in their future.

I actually enjoyed the book for the most part. My only little hang up is a personal one. I didn’t know that it would touch on miscarriages and hint around about the depression that sometimes follows. I got so upset that Julia wouldn’t just talk to Wes to even let him know that she was pregnant and lost the baby. It was so frustrating but I know that my own experiences color this portion of the book for me. Other than that, I found that it was an enjoyable read and would read other titles by this author.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Namesake

The NamesakeThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Namesake was a book that I happened to stumble upon through the Goodreads suggestions page . The premise sounded interesting and I really had never read anything based in the Indian culture. I’m so glad I picked up the book to read.

The story is a third person narrative of the Ganguli family. Ashoke & Ashima are a Bengali couple who have an arranged marriage in the 1960s, following Indian tradition. Directly after their marriage, Ashima follows her new husband back to Boston where he is studying at MIT. Homesickness is overwhelming for Ashima as she prepares to deliver their firstborn child.

When their son is born, they struggle for a name and this leads to the underlying thread of the book, Gogol’s name. A second child is added to the mix and as time goes on, Gogol’s narrative begins.

While not a drama loaded story, it is an engaging one. I found myself slowing in my reading pace. The tempo of the book was one that begged to be read lazily. One that wanted me to enjoy the details and be able to experience their world. I don’t like writing a lot of details about books in my reviews/summaries so I won’t here but I will re-emphasize that the story is enjoyable. The characters were relatable, even if we really had nothing in common with them.