Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Place Like Home

I've been having so much fun out here.  My trip has been extended so I'm living it up. See you in 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home for the Holidays!

Wooo! I really am SO ready to go home :)

Things I've missed:

The cluster that is Tysons Corner Center at Christmas. I'm not even joking. I went to the Carbondale mall to get a Christmas gift and I found a parking spot right by the door. Where am I??

I have a gift certificate to Giant eating a hole in my wallet. What should I buy?

Sushi! Chinese. Panda!!

Kabobs - got to have some. At some point my goal is to make a Sunday dinner - kabobs, rice, tadig, yogurt and salad for Brandon's parents. I just have to practice. There are NO middle eastern restaurants even close. The only thing I found was a Lebanese restaurant in Cape.

Jeila Irdmusa.

I'll be there tomorrow morning!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Busy busy! So ready for the holidays!! Here's what's been going on:

  • Tuesday night we did our gift exchange with Brandon's parents. I got Knute and Nancy a gift certificate to Cummare's - neither of them have eaten there yet. They got me a Paula Deen set of pots - awesome.
  • Before that, Brandon got rear-ended while showing me where on campus where I go to take tests. We're ok. His back bumper needs to be repaired.
  • Today I headed to the SIU campus to take my first test for my online class. I had to go to the Distance Education office. I was nervous! They made me turn off my cell phone and place my purse in a cabinet. Then I went into the testing room and logged into blackboard. I whipped out my post-it with my Dawg Tag. I put in the wrong password on the first try... I clicked on the link for exam 1 and then the proctor entered the password. Then I took my test. It wasn't bad at all, I got a 94!
  • We had a ridiculous spread of Christmas treats at work today.
  • I gotta pack, I'm going home Saturday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brandon's Graduation

On Saturday, Brandon graduated from SIU with a bachelor's degree in Political Science. There were two ceremonies and Brandon's school was in the afternoon ceremony that began at 1:30.
The ceremony was held in the arena. It was packed!
They read everyone's names which was special but looong.
Brandon shaking hands with Chancellor Cheng

So proud!

Afterwards we ate at Golden Corral. Classy, I know :) But that's ok because I had my graduation dinner at Friendly's.

There are certain times when I really miss my family. Case in point: when the Irdmusas go to a buffet they eat slowly and make it a 5-7 course meal.  Not the Shultzes, they grab 2 or 3 plates of food all at once. I brought back my first plate of salad and a dinner roll and they were shocked. "Is that all you're eating?" NO OF COURSE NOT. Sigh...  I need to teach them how to make multiple trips to the buffet: salad, soup, entree x2, dessert - savoring each course.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmastime is Here

Check out our first Christmas tree:

We didn't have one last year because Brandon moved back to Illinois right before Christmas. This year, we inherited Brandon's grandma's tree. It was simple to put together and it was fun to hang the few ornaments that we've collected over the years. I wish all these presents were under it:

Actually, I took this photo this morning at the Murphysboro Key Club Toy, Coat and Food Drive this morning. Brandon was excited to share this awesome event with me. There were around 400 food orders this year - packages included ham, canned veggies, a loaf of bread, apples and oranges, saltines, vanilla wafers cake mix and frosting, etc. Brandon and I made several deliveries to very appreciative recipients. Later in the afternoon, the kids delivered the presents and coats.

Back to the tree, I love my William & Mary ornament. We are still looking for an SIU ornament, know of any good ones? We want our college ornaments to match if possible, but we've only found this one so far, meh.
Our favorite ornaments:


Nancy had us come over and look through some Christmas stuff to see what we wanted. I saw the nativity scene and knew I had to have it. Notice anything strange?
Jesus has two mommies!
Two mother Marys and no Joseph to be found, how progressive! Haha. Actually Brandon and I hypothesized that his Mom had two sets and either he and his brother must have broken both Josephs or she just packed them up wrong.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Cards that Weren't

Today I went to TJ Maxx and bought my Christmas cards. This girl is on a budget. But, that doesn't mean I didn't shop around online to see what else was out there.
Last year I went with a DC-inspired design for my Christmas cards. Naturally, I looked into cards with local flavor first:

Then I learned of Rifle Paper Co. my newest obsession. I love the designs. If they weren't $2/card, this would be my choice:
Rifle Paper Co.
 The red envelope makes it. Have you ever received a Christmas postcard?
Rifle Paper Co.
Then there were some fun choices:
I work for an eye center, what did you expect?
Wall-e makes me swoon. I die of cuteness.
Snow & Graham
This one is another winner. Simple and lovely. I would want it hanging on my card garland. What's your favorite?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blend Tea & Crepe Lounge

I was working at the SIU office last Tuesday so Brandon took me out to lunch. I requested Blend Tea & Crepe Lounge. I had been wanting to try it ever since I read this article in the DE. I was excited that the owner moved here from Blacksburg, VA.

We walked in around 11:30 and they were eager to take our order so we looked over the menu quickly. We both stuck to savory crepes for lunch and ordered the Smoked Turkey crepe for me and Roast Chicken for him. Brandon said there was too much spinach in his. And to that I said you can never have too much spinach Popeye! Mine was cheesy and the crepe was light and airy. I ate the whole thing.

We also ordered peach black tea to share. It was super sweet but I liked the flavor, so I just let the ice melt a little longer. We decided that we were not in the mood for dessert so I guess we'll have to go back. The building is so cute - it's very college coffeehouse. It's got great potential - just needs a few more personal touches: chalkboard walls, bulletin boards, community bookshelf, live music - something. I could easily see it reaching Aroma's level with a few tweaks and the students of SIU embracing it.

Definitely, a place I'll take Jeila to when she visits. She loves bubble tea. One of their signature drinks is "Ice Coffee Milk Tea with Coffee Jellly" ... ok, maybe they could stand to change a few of the names of their drinks :) But, the price is low and you can stay as long as you want - free WiFi and they are open from 11 am to 11pm every day.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lights Fantastic Parade

Last night was Carbondale's Lights Fantastic Parade. I went downtown with Jarrod, Joey and Dana to watch the parade from South Illinois Ave (across the street from Cristaudo's). Luckily, we had much better weather than tonight - ie not rainy. It was the parade's 21st year. I think this has got to be the original float:
Doesn't "lights fantastic" sound like something out of the 50s? There were several firetrucks covered in lights.
Makanda Township Fire Department
Hate to admit it, but, Rotary had a very good entry:
Probably also from 1990

There were some more unique entries:

Darth Vader
I mean what's a Christmas parade without Darth Vader? (Courtesty of the SIU Order of Jedis)
This train had great timing. As it came by, the actual train rolled into town and added a great soundtrack of tracks rumbling and horn honking. There were several marching bands playing Christmas music. I think the kids had fun decorating themselves and their instruments.
And finally, the man of the hour:

Carbondale did a good job with the parade. They actually turned out the street lights along the parade route. I was bummed they didn't throw out any candy canes and I did get a bit frozen after sitting outside for two hours. It was no Williamsburg Grand Illumination or Annapolis Boat Parade but, I'm glad I went. 'Tis the season!

Today was mostly a day of studying. I got the first season of Dexter from the library. It's freaking me out. The crime solving reminds me a lot of Veronica Mars and the quirky music and plot twists remind me of Weeds. I'm hooked. Ok, time to make tacos for dinner!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ditch the Workout...

Join the Party! Today I got called out in Zumba class for my "boom shake drop."

Let's just say I have a fierce "drop." I'll leave that to your imagination, lol. Hey, it's not my fault my first Zumba instructors were sexy Latinas. I know how to shake it :) I have to say that I'm loving my Saturday morning Zumba with Cindy. She gives a serious cardio workout with lots of squats, lunges and crunches. Plus she always does a full 60 minutes (if not more).

Here were some workout questions I've been wondering about (in case you were too):

Why do my legs shake uncontrollably when I do lunges?
Because your muscles are working hard

Why is my weight different every time I get on the scale?
A fluctuation of 3-5 pounds over the course of a day is normal

Recap of the Carbondale Lights Fantastic Parade tomorrow!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

People of Southern Illinois

Look closely at the minivan's back window.
That's a window-unit AC. Spotted in the Burger King drive-thru, Carbondale.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brandon's New Sister

Meet Callie:
Nancy's new dog. She's a totally calm cutie. I mean look ... she let me hold her like a stuffed animal! She doesn't bark or try to lick you too much and only smells a little bit. I can't let on that I like her too much otherwise I'll have to babysit.

Brandon's favorite things: dogs, Coke and taco dip :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Almost done with my B&B weekend recap...

Sunday morning we awoke to a knock on our door. Special delivery:
Breakfast!!! More pretty blue dishes (so tempted to steal). I ordered the quiche and Brandon had pancakes. The innkeeper's bread was a cranberry orange cake (I think) and the fruit dish was a pear with preserves. Very tasty and a great way to wake up. Then it was time to check out and head on up to St. Louis.
Our first stop was the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge. (Major props to Missouri State Parks website, it rocks! Seriously, it leaves the Illinois State Parks website in the dust.) The bridge was pretty, and surprising similar to the one in Illinois.

Next up was Laumeier Sculpure Park. Now this was a Mitra destination. I loved it! It is a park with giant sculptures. (Little known fact, in college I took a 3-D art class. One of our projects was Christo and Jeanne-Claude inspired and we built our own giant inflatable sculptures). By far, the two most fun works were:
Ricardo Cat
The cat.
The eyeball. It was cold and drizzly so we only saw a small portion of the park. But I will definitely make another trip back in warmer weather.

Our next destination was a real big city museum. We went to the Missouri History Museum. Best part, free admission! The World's Fair exhibit was really interesting. And totally devastating to know that the magical city that they built in 1904 was promptly destroyed after the festivities. Brandon decided that if he ever becomes Governor of Missouri he will rebuilt the fairgrounds. I stand behind his platform, haha.
Ye Olde 3-D Glasses
We have a thing for silly cut-outs:
Devil Child

The last treat of the day was lunch. Brandon took me to Mama's on the Hill. This was my first time eating Italian food on "The Hill", St. Louis's Little Italy. The reason he chose Mama's was because it claims to be the, "Home of the toasted ravioli!" Being the good foodies we are we ordered them right away:
The Verdict: tasty, meatier than Cummare's in a good way. We then split Fettuccine Alfredo - yum! They have a Mama's challenge which is a "hill" of spaghetti topped with a giant meatball (I mean meatloaf size). Crazy! Maybe someday ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dr. Hertich's House

Ok, back to my Ste. Gen trip ... It was finally time to check into our bed & breakfast, Dr. Hertich's House. It is an extension of the Inn St. Gemme Beauvais. That is the building across the street and also where we found the owner to check-in. She walked us over to our room, the Ste. Genevieve Suite. When I made my reservations on the phone I just asked for the best room we could get :) It definitely was!
King-sized bed

Gas fireplace

Sitting room
And in the bathroom was a sweet jacuzzi tub! Our only complaint about the room was the small TV and funny tasting tap water. We also had a coffee maker, microwave and mini-fridge in our room. Luckily, a couple of cokes were in the fridge as well as some crackers and microwave popcorn. Another cool feature was the guest book with messages all the way back to 2006 from guests who stayed in our room. We brought in our bags and then headed back across the street for tea time!
Tea time is included with your stay. I loved the cups! We were also served a piece of the most amazing carrot cake:
Couldn't get this pic to rotate, sorry!
While enjoying our tea, we placed our breakfast order for the next morning.
Choices included beverage, innkeepers bread choice, fruit dish, oatmeal and one entree per guest (stuffed French toast, Quiche Loraine, biscuits and gravy, beignets, etc). You could have it delivered to your room or you could eat in the restaurant. We opted for room service.

For the rest of the afternoon we headed back out on the wine trail. We visited Cave Winery first. It was $5 for a tasting. They also have a cave you can go down and see but only if you buy a bottle. Chaumette Winery was next. Absolutely gorgeous. It is an entire resort, they even have a chapel for weddings. I want to live in their bathroom, not joking!

Chaumette Winery Ladies Room
Our tasting guy let us share a tasting for $5. His pours were HUGE and his personality was charming old man, loved it :) Our last stop of the night was Charleville Vineyard. The building was a big cozy log cabin with a large bar. They also have microbrews. By this point I was feeling the wine so I only had a few sips. We did get our passports stamped. Brandon was happy. He already logged them in and we got our bar towel just the other day. Very fun.

On our way back to the B&B we picked up Subway to enjoy in the comfort of our room...classy right? But in our defense, the only recommendation we got for dinner was for The Anvil, a bar. So I don't think we missed out too much.

To be continued...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Recap

How was everyone's black Friday?

I went out with the Shultz family at midnight for the doorbusters at Macy's. Nancy wanted to buy Kayla and I some $19.99 Rampage boots for Christmas. These were VERY popular. Luckily Brandon and Seth were super shoppers and elbowed their way through crazy ladies to grab us boxes of shoes in our size. It was hilarious. Knute was standing in the aisle with 3 shoe boxes in his hands and a lady walks by and says "oh, that's why you're here."

After looking through all the ads, I decided that really the only thing that I could justify buying for myself was new pillows. So on my suggestion we all headed over to the home section. We found Martha Stewart memory foam pillows on special for $23.99 that were originally $80. Turns out everyone wanted one so we walked away with six pillows (which also turned out to be our Christmas present, thanks Nancy!).

We stopped by Kohl's,Walmart and Best Buy to look at their specials but I didn't see anything too exciting. By then it was 3am and we were ready for bed. Later during the day, I decided that I wanted sneakers so I ordered $27.99 Asics from Finish Line online. All in all a successful shopping day.

Feeling Frenchy: Wine & Chocolate Please!

Following our drive last Saturday morning, we arrived in St. Genevieve, MO. We had some time to kill before our 2 o'clock check-in at the B&B so we made our first stop at the visitor's center. They had a nice display of some of the history and attractions in the area. We picked up a map and realized that the Ste. Genevieve Museum would be a good place to start.

Ste. Genevieve Museum
The building itself was a historic landmark, built in 1935 for the town's bicentennial. Admission was $2/person. It reminded Brandon and me of the Corry Museum, due to items relating to local industry and arts & crafts like a "crazy quilt" from a church.

Our next stop was the Sainte Genevieve Winery. When we walked in we were stuck behind a tour bus of divas on the Route du Vin. When we finally got up to the tasting counter we tried a bunch of delicious fruit wines. I was a fan of almost all of them. Our tasting was free, score! We also got a stamp on our Missouri Wines passport. With just 4 visits to different wineries you earn a bar towel (and with 40 visits... food and wine pairing for 10). Illinois definitely needs a rewards program like this.
Ste. Genevieve Winery
From there we walked over to Sweet Things, a candy and gift shop. Brandon and I picked out some decadent truffles and tasted them outside.
Truffles from Sweet Things

And then it was time to check into our room! To be continued....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Four Thoughts on Food

1. Blackberries and raspberries were $1 at Schnuck's. Wow! I was so excited I bought 6 cartons. Actually ... I shared most of them with my coworkers. We had a pre-Thanksgiving potluck at work today:
Big Juicy Berries
2. I bought my first leek. I'm a fan. It reminds me of a giant spring onion and smells so good! I plan on using it this weekend in beef and barley soup. 
3. I made chocolate chip oatmeal scotchies. These are my contribution to tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. 

4. For dinner Brandon brought me home a sub from Whiffleboy's. The one benefit of having a pizza maker as a boyfriend - hearts on my takeout box :)