Thursday, July 31, 2014

Netflixing

It's been 1 year since we cancelled cable and we've never even looked back. We've saved $1,080 over the last year in cable costs alone and so far have spent $0 in alternative programming. Netflix was included free for one year with our Smart TV purchase so we are just about to pay for our very first month of that at $7.99 a month. I think we can swing that.

I can truthfully, honestly say that there hasn't even been once where I personally have wished we just had such and such channel to watch such and such show yet. There are a couple of shows John watches on cable channels, but he's gotten used to waiting until the following day to download the episode. The only other thing he's missed are his NASCAR races on the Speed channel, and he's gotten used to listening to those on the radio while he does other weekend projects. I selfishly like that better too because usually watching a race = snoozing the day away. 

Anyways, the point of this whole post is how much we love Netflix. They aren't paying me to say that (but they are certainly welcome to if they have some dollars to spare), I just really like the service. I know that most of us use it so it's not like I'm sharing anything groundbreaking, but these are our favorite things we watch or have watched on Netflix.

I've already told you about how much I LOVED Dexter and Breaking Bad. Those two still remain my favorites.



After we finished those two shows we sort of hit a lull. We couldn't agree on anything even after all of your suggestions on my post and we quit watching TV for a few weeks. I wanted to start something anyways so started watching Orange Is The New Black by myself because John was so sure he wouldn't like it. A few episodes in and he was slowllllyyyy walking through the living room as I'm watching it, and an episode or two later he was sitting down with me to watch it. We finished both seasons of it and can't wait for the next season next year!


Once we finished that we again debated about what was next. I really wanted Scandal, he really wanted to catch me up on The Walking Dead since he's watched it from the beginning and wouldn't mind seeing it again. Right around this time, I read this on another blog and since she had a few shows in her list that we also liked I figured it'd be safe to choose our next show from this list. She had a show in the list neither John nor I had ever heard of (likely because it comes on AMC - a cable channel that we've since forgotten about ha) called 'The Killing' and it was another crime drama which we obviously are fans of. We are already on season 2 of this one and are loving it. Very suspenseful and keeps you guessing even though the entire first two seasons are about ONE KILLING. Beware though: there are so many ugly sweaters in this show. It's astonishing the amount of them. Every character, ugly sweaters for all!

A little sneak peek of some ugly sweaters right there in the screenshots!

Another show that we've loved our entire relationship is also good for a quick 20 minute show if we have some nap time to kill or something is Forensic Files. Our favorite channel early on in our relationship was Court TV, which is now TruTV largely due to this show. I like crime shows that have closure so I'm more drawn to these than say America's Most Wanted. I also like my shows more succinct, so 20 minutes is great for that unlike Dateline (which I do love but man do they drag the show out). Anyways, Forensic Files is great, and the season on Netflix is from the year 2000 which doesn't seem that long ago but the footage will prove otherwise. 


And really, that's about all I've watched over the last year except for stuff on network television! I really need to remember to check out some of the movies sometimes if I ever get a spare 2 hours - ha! But you know who else really loves Netflix?

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Charley! (and friends, apparently)

Here are her favorites at almost 3 years old:

Franny's Feet - About a girl who hangs out in her grandfather's shoe repair shop and slips on different shoes which take her to different places on the globe. (Like wooden shoes take her to Germany and cowboy boots to Texas, for example). Sounds crazy, as most kid's shows do, but she loves it.


Bo on the Go - This one encourages viewers to exercise along with Bo to give her the energy to perform tasks as she goes. Charley probably participates 25% of the time. The rest of the time she sees that Bo still goes whether or not she jumps up and down with her and stays on the couch. Can't say I blame her since TV is usually her wind down activity anyways.


She also really loves the movies Dumbo, A Turtle's Tale and A Turtles Tale 2 but rarely watches the whole  movie. And loves the shorts they put together like this one from Madagascar.


So that's our current TV favorites. Everyone loves talking TV shows, so give me some more good recommendations in the comments. Remember way back when when I only watched reality TV? Man, old Lacey was missing out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

When She Grows Up


If I had to guess what Charley might be when she grows up based on how she is at age 2.75, these would be my best guesses. It might be fun to come back and revise this list periodically as she grows up.

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One of Charley's favorite things to play is "birthday party". She knows where I store all of the party supplies and often takes out the crepe paper, balloons and paper straws to set up for a birthday party. Crepe paper is wrapped around shelves and decor and sometimes she'll request a piece of tape to hold it all together, balloons are blown up and tossed around, and there are paper straws filling every vase and container in her reach in the house. She's definitely going to be a party planner one day.

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(I told this story on Facebook so ignore it if you have already heard it.) Charley and I are getting ready to go out to meet a friend of mine for dinner. We are in my closet and Charley asks if I'd wear something different than what I had on. To humor her (and to maybe get a chuckle over what she chooses instead) I tell her okay, what should I wear instead? She chooses a black sundress and since I had no reason to not wear it I put it on at her request. After I had it on Charley told me that it was "perfectly classic" and I have absolutely no idea where she got that. She's definitely going to be a fashion designer one day.

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Charley walks around on her tip toes a lot. The pediatrician told us to keep an eye on it to make sure it's not ALL of the time, and it's not, so mainly she does it when she's feeling dainty and prancey. She's for sure going to be a ballerina.
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We go for golf cart rides (go fast!), I push her on the swing (push me faster!), or we ride in the car (catch that car up there Mama!). She's definitely going to be a race car driver some day.

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Every single day as we leave my sister's house, Charley picks me a handful of flowers from a plant that my sister is soon getting rid of anyways and therefore allows the flowers to be picked. She bundles them up nicely and hands them to me every day. It's likely just a stall tactic to keep from being buckled up in the car, but she may have a deep rooted love of plants and flowers just like her Gaga. She's got it in her to be a florist one day.
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Upside down. She often wants to be carried upside down, wants to hang upside down, goes down slides head first and hangs off the couch upside down. I'm really thinking she may be a bat or a possum when she grows up.

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Things she probably won't be when she grows up:
Hairdresser - girlfriend doesn't care if hair is hanging in her face or all tangled up. 
Dentist or Dental Hygienist - She doesn't care to care for her teeth so why would she want to take care of other's? 
A Librarian - Although she loves books, being quiet isn't really her thing. 
A model - one actually has to be still and look at the camera to be one of those.
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Things I want her to be when she grows up:
Happy. 
Healthy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lunch

Almost three full years ago I took one of my last 'official' lunches while working at my old job. It was just prior to Charley being born because after she was born I gave up taking my lunch hour at work in lieu of leaving an hour earlier to get back to my Charley girl sooner. It was a must with my old commute and I continued working through lunch and eating at my desk until I left the company last month.

At the new job I am working regular hours again which means I get a lunch hour again. The first two weeks of working at the new job I was running off every single day to get lunch, yes, but to also run errands! Shop a bit at Target! Pick up some fresh bread at the bakery that closes at 5 and therefore we could never make it there before! Drop off things at Goodwill! Make any phone calls that need to be made! Stop by the post office! My errand list was endless and I treasured every single minute of that hour. I never realized how much I had needed that time to get things done without a certain munchkin in tow.


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One day during lunch I stopped in Goodwill and found these boxes from Target. Originally $24.99, Target clearanced to $17 something, then now at Goodwill for some odd reason for $5.99 which the cashier only rang up for $4.99. Whoop whoop!

And then, one day I ventured home for lunch and my excitement only grew. I did the dishes! I paid some bills! I touched up my make-up! Used my own bathroom! Played on Facebook or blogged without making it blatantly obvious that "it's ok! I'm on lunch!" You know how awesome it is to be in your own home alone? Totally awesome.

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I can have a dessert after lunch from my very own pantry. No need to scrummage through my purse for change for the ol' vending machine. And yes, this is 2 mini bags of each a Valentine's and Easter M&Ms.

Basically, I've spent my lunch hours very productively over the last month or so that I've been working at the new job. I've enjoyed it so much and am so thankful to have found a place close to home that I can do this at without losing too much time from Charley. I am actually getting to her a tad bit later in the afternoons by leaving at 5 instead of 4, but I feel so much more accomplished these days.

Today for lunch I ventured over to Marshall's because I really need a few home decor items to fill some shelving and things at home. A HomeGoods is opening up in the next month or so in the same shopping center, so maybe I would have had more luck at a store like that but, you guys. I STRUGGLED so much shopping for home decor. I picked things up, I put them down. (please read that last sentence in the muscle man's voice from the commercial.) I checked and double checked prices. I strolled the clearance aisle a few times. But in the end I bought nothing. I left feeling really defeated and realized that I don't think I've EVER set out to shop for home decor like that. 95% of what I have came from garage sales or resale type shops. The other 5% I've picked up while shopping for something else if that makes sense. I feel like I am a decent home decorator and felt so defeated that I left there with NOTHING and couldn't figure out a use for anything in the store. I guess I just prefer to shop at garage sales where my selection is way more limited, the stuff is so cheap that it won't matter if I never find a home for it and end up donating, and I don't have as many choices. Choices make me anxious apparently.

As I was walking out of the door empty handed I got a text message on my phone. It was from one of my credit card companies and said that I needed to call this number immediately to discuss a possible fraudulent charge. Since I was on lunch, by myself and had the time, I chose to call back immediately. The phone number given was linked in the text message so I was able to click on the number and make the call.

The person answers and after the usual mumbo jumbo welcome says "credit card number please?" I'm no genius but isn't giving out your full credit card number over the phone, to a number I dialed through a text message link exactly what you should be warning me NOT to do, especially if you are the FRAUD DEPARTMENT? I laugh at this obvious phishing scheme that I almost got caught up in (heh...calling a number from the text message that was just randomly sent to me. You almost got me, buddy!) and tell him absolutely not, I would NOT give him my credit card number. He is obviously confused and says okkkkkkk, and I basically hang up on him, laughing, knowing I am way smarter than him.

So then I get out said credit card and dial the number on the back of the card to report this obvious phishing scheme and upon only entering my last four digits of my card number, which matched up to the phone number from which I was dialing I was immediately transferred to the fraud department where yes, I did in fact have a fraudulent charge that tried to come through that they blocked and he verified that yes, that text message was legit. Whoops, sorry first dude!

But am I just crazy or is that nuts? With so many other ways to verify me (which the second guy did) is it ever really necessary to give out my whole credit card number over the phone EVEN IF IT IS TO THE SO CALLED FRAUD DEPARTMENT? I suggest a rewriting of some of your fraud prevention techniques, gentleman. Step 1) Advise customers never to give out their full credit card number over the phone. And so on.

And after I made that phone call I had time to sit and reflect and laugh about it to myself. Time. I can't believe all this time.

Lunches are awesome, y'all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toy Storage

Way back when (pre-baby) I wrote a post about how I was concerned about my home would look with toys and baby gear strewn about. I know it comes with the territory for the most part but that didn't keep me from constantly reorganizing and thinking of ways to disguise the kid factor in my decor. I came back when Charley was 10 months old and showed pictures of my baby-fied house, although even looking back at them I don't think it was ever really that bad. Shew!

As Charley has gotten older, the amount of gear and large items decreases and her ability to play independently increases, which is good news for my kid stuff disguises. I know if we ever have another kid I'll have to revise all of this but for now this is the state of the toy storage in our home. (And spoiler: I'm very happy with it at the moment, which I why I want to share it. A, so I can remember it and B, so I can get or give suggestions from/to anyone else!)

Let's start with the main living area - the area that I want MOST disguised.

In the living room we have our big shelving unit that we built that naturally has lots of built in storage/disguises. The baskets on the bottom left of the shelving unit are designated for toys. Any/all toys that Charley was playing with and got left in any room that is not her room or her playroom winds up in these baskets each night.

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There are no rules about what belongs in these baskets. They are just a way to clean up any toys that were left out after she's gone to bed. If they start to get too full, we take them to her room and empty them and put the toys where they actually belong. They are also good for having Charley help clean up since there are no rules about what goes where. I can have her clean up her toys in the living room and she knows to just put them all in these baskets. This is all of the toy storage in any of the main living areas. Sometimes we'll have Charley's Anywhere Chair out in the living room which obviously doesn't bother me, but all other big gear belongs in her room or her playroom. Let me live in my dreamland this way until if/when we have another kid. 

Next up is Charley's room. For the most part, all of the toys belong in her closet in her room. Things that are left out are larger items like her shopping cart, baby strollers, baby cradle, etc. There are some things that are stored under her bed so she can get to them easily like a bin of blocks and a couple of her favorite games. (Hungry, Hungry, Hippos for one - she is obsessed with hippos!) Everything else is in the closet.

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The Expedit cube thing from IKEA works really well for now because it's not permanent. Once this closet set-up no longer works for Charley we can take it out and add more space for hanging clothes or whatever her needs may be. For now though, it works great!

In those top flowered baskets are any clothes or shoes that Charley hasn't grown into, organized by size. So there is a 4T basket, size 5, etc, and then a shoe one also.

Obviously all of her books go in those top 4 cubes. On top of the Expedit is an owl basket containing dress up stuff that she can get to herself, piggy banks, a couple of Melissa and Doug things that she plays with pretty often and a couple other baskets for whatever we need them for at the moment.

In the pink cubes is the majority of her toys.

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In the left two cubes is roughly pretend toys, with a couple other things thrown in too. All of these toys she can play with by herself and get to by herself. That's kind of my only requirement about what gets put here versus on higher shelving.

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In the right two cubes are music toys and then puzzles. Again, toys she can play with by herself and get to by herself.

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On the left side of her closet is just more toy storage, but things she either doesn't play with as much or things I'd rather her play with while supervised. Stuffed animals are all stuffed in the bottom so she can get to them.

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On the right side is more of the same (except dolls on the bottom instead) and it includes some bigger items.

In those pink/white striped boxes I keep a lot of like things together. One box is labeled 'junk' which I'll get to in a second, and the other is 'baby doll items' which stores all extra clothes, bottles, bibs, shoes, or whatever came with the baby doll that I don't want lost somewhere.

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 The junk box was an idea stolen from my Mama. We had junk bags as kids which housed all of the junky toys that really don't belong anywhere else but you just weren't ready to part with. This includes kid's meal toys, gumball machine toys, and random party favors. The idea is to only have enough junk to fill one bag or box at any time. So if the box becomes too full, it's time to toss a few things. And, since there are just so many little toys that a child acquires like this, getting the box down and letting Charley go through them all and play with them is always fun for her and takes up a good chunk of time. It's a win/win.

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Finally, the play room/3rd bedroom. Obviously the future of this room is the most up in the air so for the meantime, this is the room I just let Charley's favorite toys stay out in. In here I keep her Little People stuff set up, her Littlest Pet Shop stuff out, that giant tub is ALL Lincoln Logs which we like to play with her and any of the bigger stuff that doesn't have a good home elsewhere stays in here too. IF this room's future ever needs to be something else, then I think I would do a combo of moving the toys back into her closet in her room or moving some of the bigger things down into the basement to keep things as organized as possible.

Am I naive to think that toy storage can still be managed with multiple children? Gah I hope not. I'm really kind of liking our current set-up! Any suggestions to make things even better? I'll take 'em! What toy storage ideas have worked for you?

Monday, July 7, 2014

A quick trip recap

I had big plans of things I wanted to talk about from our trip that was a full three weeks ago now, but if I want to get this documented I just need to do it now no matter how disorganized my thoughts are because my memory isn't all that reliable. So. Anyways, besides the crazy dune hike I told you about, this was the rest of the trip.

We started out way underestimating the time we needed at the airport on a Saturday morning and got in the longest line of our lives to check our bags. We knew at this point there was no way we were making our 8 a.m. flight. (Ironically, later I learned that one of the benefits to our US Air Mastercard was first class check-in, which would have saved us about 45 minutes of waiting in line. Doh!) After we finally got our bags checked and got through security, it was 5 or 10 minutes later than our scheduled departure time. So we headed straight to the customer service desk to see about getting placed on a later flight.

We are there for about 2 minutes when they realize our flight is still there and had been delayed about 25 minutes. If we ran we could possibly make it. So we did. And we just barely made it. They had already checked in standby passengers so some of our seats were taken so Charley and I sat away from the rest of the family but that was okay - somehow we actually made it on our flight! Whew! On to Chicago...

We packed all of this into 4 days in Chicago:

Whew. It was a very fast paced four days. But we saw almost all that we wanted to see. (John would have liked to squeeze in a visit to Wrigley Field even though they weren't in town while we were there but we never made it.) We didn't love it all (Adler Planetarium wasn't really our thing nor was Field Museum, and we weren't that impressed with Lincoln Park Zoo either) but we had a great time anyways! 

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I do want to mention that Charley did so great just rolling with the punches. Her naps each day were unplanned and just occurred whenever she couldn't hold her eyes open any longer, whether we were at lunch, on a bus, at the zoo or while waiting in line for security at the White Sox Game. She was such a good traveler! (But she IS 2, so don't get me wrong - there were definitely some tantrums and sassiness thrown in there - just not as much as I expected!)

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We relied 100% on public transportation and had no issues at all, minus a couple of bus rides that we would have preferred be a bit shorter - but there's no way to fix that! The "L" trains were definitely dated looking along with some of the stations but seemed to be in great working order. We couldn't believe how rusted and old some of the stations looked though.

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We all FIVE shared one room at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront and we really could not have been any happier with that room. It was so much bigger than most hotel rooms which left plenty of room for Charley's bed we brought along (seriously - that was such a great decision to bring!) and had sitting areas other than on the beds which we really liked. The hotel was downtown, on the water and in the middle of everything. I booked on Hotwire and can't remember if it was a name your own price deal or what, but ended up getting that room for only $125/night! 

After Chicago, we rented a car and made our way to Traverse City, Michigan. I was really looking forward to this next hotel because it was set up like a condo and had two separate bedrooms on two different floors and a mini kitchen and all. I knew that would work much better for the five of us, even though we'd had no issues thus far with sharing a room.

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We really should have rented a bigger car - ha!

But, as soon as we walked in the door we were overcome by the smell. At first we thought it was just really old and musty. It was SO awful, truly. The place had a pool though so we spent a good bit of time there, and if we weren't there then we were eating at some of the delicious restaurants in town. We ate at North Peak Brewing Company and Folgarelli's Market and were so impressed with both. And then the next morning we went to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as you already know

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When we got back to the room that afternoon we soon realized that it wasn't just an older musty place, but that it was dog we were smelling. We didn't want to complain if ALL of the rooms smelt this bad so when we asked our neighbor if theirs also smelt and they not only said no, but mentioned that the people there before us had two giant dogs. This was when I made the realization that I'm not really interested in staying in any pet friendly places from now on. It was terrible. We classed it up like true southerners and drug the chairs from the kitchen table outside to sit in to avoid sitting in the room. At this point we realized how ridiculous this was and John went to talk to the manager. We were only staying there one additional night, but he offered to refund us the second night and half of the first night because he felt bad about our stay. We took him up on the offer and made our way to our next destination, Petoskey, Michigan, one day early. (I don't want to give the hotel bad press since they did make it right with us and it seems we just had bad luck with our room, so I'm not going to mention the name of the hotel here.) 

Once we got to Petoskey we didn't really have many plans (except the wedding of course) so we just chose things based on location and Trip Advisor reviews. Over the course of 3 days, we visited a Fish Hatchery which was free and informative, a ski resort for chairlift rides and an adorable working farm that had an awesome restaurant as well. All of those things were either free or close to free. We also drove the supposed tunnel of trees but were really unimpressed. You would think a tunnel would mean the trees create a nice arch over the road, but not so much. There were trees on both sides of the road so if that's something you aren't used to then maybe you'd find it more impressive than we did, but it just looked like anywhere else to us.

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The wedding was Saturday evening and was so beautiful overlooking Lake Michigan. I Rented the Runway for the first time ever and LOVED my experience doing that. The dress was perfect and fit well and was so easy to return. Will definitely be doing that for any future events.

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On our way back to Chicago we stopped over in Michigan City, Indiana for one evening to sort of cut the drive a bit shorter. The town was, um, sketchy. It looked pretty touristy and like many people vacation there, but we really weren't impressed with the visit to Washington Park, and it's the number one rated thing to do here! Our hotel was nice and clean and in a safe area it seemed, so no complaints there but glad we didn't stay there any longer than one evening. 

The next day we made our way back to the airport where we got held up on the runway for at least an hour. That sucked especially since we were all ready to be home after being gone for 10 days but thankfully we made it home safely (and quietly! Charley slept the entire flight!) and didn't kill each other after being in such close quarters the entire time. We really like each other I suppose!

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there are a few random things I wanted to share too about this trip:

  1. That packing light thing is for the birds. I ran out of clothes and didn't think through all of my outfits. (Didn't pack enough light undies for a couple of white/light shorts I brought). However, we had to do the ol' suitcase switcheroo at check-in because a few bags were overweight. So fun to rearrange undies in front of a really long line of impatient people! So taking more clothes wouldn't even have been an option anyways unless we checked another bag (that inevitably wouldn't have fit in the rental car.)
  2. We tried to grocery shop on our first day there to save ourselves from eating out every single meal for 10 days. I think that saved us for all of two meals. It's no fun to eat in a room with no table/silverware/dishes/etc.
  3. My kid lived on the iPad and my iPhone all week. 
  4. Seriously - no more pet friendly hotels.
  5. That was really long. Are you still with me?
  6. Did you know it's light until like 9:30 or so up there? It was so strange and I had never realized that.
Thanks again for those of you that gave me awesome suggestions for our trip! 

How ridiculous that I titled this post 'A Quick Trip Recap'. There was nothing quick about that recap. But I'm leaving it because I just need this to be done already.

Done.