Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weekend In The Windy City

With all of the projects around the house, in the garage, out in the yard, and the onset of Post-Winter Pre-Spring Cabin Fever Syndrome (PWPSCFS), Meagan and I needed a distraction. Since sitting around the house is never relaxing because one of our many half-started projects is always staring us in the face, we decided to get out of town. Meagan, the ever-savvy online hotel bargain hunter, found us an outstanding room at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Chicago on the Magnificent Mile for less than $80. Unfortunately overnight parking was $41 so to make it an affordable weekend away we decided to use as much public transportation as possible. So, starting in Michigan City, Indiana we parked our car for free and hopped on the South Shore Line for $7.50 each which dropped us off a block or two from the Museum of Science and Industry where we opted to partake in our token touristy event.

The Museum of Science and Industry was very cool and a lot of fun… When I was 12… I hadn’t been back since and had fond memories of what it was like. We thought we’d beat the crowds and go on Friday instead of Saturday, little did we know it was “National Bring Your School to the Museum Day” . There were 6 to 15 year olds running rampant through the exhibits, pressing every button and interacting with every exhibit. Fortunately, after 2:30 they all cleared out and we could enjoy the museum in peace. After the museum we hopped on the bus to our hotel and checked in. They gave us warm delicious cookies and we dropped our bags off and headed out to the Blue Agave Mexican restaurant for some outstanding Mexican food. After gorging ourselves on the bottomless chips and fresh salsa we wandered back to the hotel doing some spot shopping along the way.

On Saturday we had a delicious breakfast across the street at the West Egg CafĂ©, which was the picture of efficiency and service as we sat down, ordered, and less than 5 minutes later had our food in front of us. After that we wandered around downtown a bit longer checking out some more stores. We wandered ourselves down to Portillo’s Italian Beef for lunch and had a famous Chicago Italian Beef sandwich dripping in peppers, cheese, and gravy. That gave us enough energy to make it back to the Millennium Park area where we saw the Macy’s Spring Flower show, stopped for some Garrett’s Popcorn (to take home), and rested as we waited to meet some friends for dinner.

We met my Calvin friends Davy and Jason and their significant others Jamie and Shari, and of course Jason and Shari’s little Asher at my favorite Chicago pizza place, Giordano’s. We had some delicious Chicago stuffed pizza and some fun conversation about how Jason is teaching Asher humility by mercilessly beating him at Playskool Basketball and how Davy dueled pianos for a Bar Mitzvah where the overbearing mom forced her son to play an impromptu piano recital for all of his friends. Later, Asher had to get home and get to bed but Davy and Jamie took us to the China Grill for some drinks and a place to hang out awaiting the train home.

It was a great trip filled with good distractions but, as with most vacations, left us more tired than we were before we left. Still, it was worth every minute!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What A Difference 3 Months Makes ...

On a beautiful morning like this – lots of sunshine, almost green grass and birds chirping – it is hard to believe that only a short time ago we were bundling up to get married on a chilly and snowy day. With such a stark juxtaposition I decided to embed two slideshows to share pictures from that day. The first one was the “day of, sans edit” slideshow that Jennifer and Dan Grant from Kate Linden Studios put together for us so that we could take it to Minnesota over Christmas to share with family and friends that couldn’t make it to Michigan for the wedding. We are so thankful that Jennifer was able to make this show for us, she worked so hard the last hour or so of the reception to get it done and she is so talented that even though the pictures are not edited they are amazing. The second slideshow is the one that we got with our fun package in the mail!

Matthew & Meagan Wedding Images Slideshow 1

Matthew & Meagan Wedding Image Slideshow 2

Monday, March 15, 2010

Creativity At Its Best!

I totally and completely love my job as an Instructor at Grand Valley. I love that I am in the classroom 2 days a week and that I can be home the rest of the time, I love that I have time to go to a Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, I love how it feels to inspire someone to change their major to Business, I love seeing the same students for 4 years and I love how they stop by your office just to say hi, I love that I have time to continue my education and complete my Ph.D., I love all of these things and more. But there is one thing that I dearly miss about my old job – the ability to be creative! Now don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of creativity to come up with inspiring lectures, to make accounting fun, to present the “Fundamentals of Business” or “Management Information Systems” to students who may or may not end up business majors, but I miss the design aspect of creativity. I miss designing websites, coming up with creative tag lines, looking at Pantone decks and picking the perfect shade of Winter Blue, sitting in brainstorming meetings for product designs and using MacGyver style tools to fix computers. Nothing reminds me of my love for the creative more than when I get something completely and utterly amazing in the mail. I just received our wedding pictures from our friend, Jennifer Grant of Kate Linden Studios, and I was so impressed. The box was cleverly labeled (don't mind our ginormous kitty in the front of the picture), the tissue was perfectly folded, the card coordinated so perfectly, there were chocolates to enjoy while looking at the photos and the disks themselves were beautifully displayed in an original media case. The whole presentation was just so put together, it made me smile and long for the opportunity to be creative again. Not that I could ever live up to the standard that Jennifer has set, but I would love to try. I photo-documented the whole thing – I plan to add it to my lecture on branding – it is such a great example.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Going Digital..Might Make Me Go Crazy

My friend Michelle is amazing when it comes to the organization and safe-keeping of her photos and videos. She immediately titles all her pictures, saves them to her hard drive, makes a back-up copy to a CD and prints them out. She even goes as far as to scrapbook the ones she prints. She never is looking for specific photos or scanning a pile of unmarked VHS tapes looking for a particular event. After working with her for several years I got really inspired and tried to learn her ways – and for the most part I have been good about saving and burning copies of my photos. Now, that I have mastered this art with my current photos, I thought I would try and go back in time to undo the mess that was created. I had my parents collect up all the old VHS tapes around the house and I am hoping to digitize them and burn them to DVDs for safe keeping … a simple task you might say – sure- but here is a sample of the pile of tapes that I am dealing with. Yikes. And to make matters a little more challenging, most of them are not titled, which means that I will be watching hours of old tapes just to identify what is captured on them. I have started working on my first tape and briefly had the thought that it is worth the $25.00 per tape to have a company do the work for me, but then I thought better of it and figured I could send myself on vacation at the end of all this editing with the money I will save. Warm whether, ocean breezes and all-you-can-eat seafood buffets here I come!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dining Room Updates...

We have made some great progress on the dining room, although we have tried to pace it out a little bit - in order to enjoy some Winter sports and so that I could have eye surgery. It is always about this point in our projects when I start to get really excited and really want to get it done. There is not too much left, so hopefully that will be the case over the next couple of weekends.

Above is a before and after of the built-in. The original built-in was made of the same cabinets as the kitchen and since we know we will have to work on that room next, we decided to just paint the cabinets, as opposed to replacing them. We did decide that we would replace the old wood countertops with new stone-effect ones. So, to fix it up, we painted the cabinets a high gloss white, we added new hardware and drawer slides, we installed new black stone-effect countertop and I laid down a sample of the new floor that we are going to install.

Besides finishing up the built-in we have also been working on the ceiling. You can see in the before picture that they had non-load-bearing beams throughout the dining room. It really made the room feel small and brought the ceiling down. I had really wanted to remove these, but we didn't know how hard it would be and if there would be ceiling damage to repair. I was pleasantly surprised when Matt and I were able to take them down in a matter of minutes with only minor touch up required. It may not be a huge difference on camera, but it makes a big difference to me to have the beams gone. I need to paint the ceiling later this week, but here is a shot of Matt working on the removal and an after shot with the beams down.

The last thing that I have really been working on is the trim. What a pain in my butt! The entire house has dark stained pine trim, it makes the house look very dated. The stain is an old stubborn varnish- shellac -nastiness, so it is impossible to paint over. I am determined to get all the stained wood painted white, so I have created a process that seems to work quite well. It takes about 3 times longer then it should, but I have about half the trim done and I am pleased with the results.