Bathroom Face Lift

For a few weeks, every time I would get into the shower I would think "Oh man, we need a new liner". It was to the point where it could no longer be cleaned and it was starting to be a little icky. However, by the time I had gotten out of the shower, I had moved on with my day and completely forgotten about it.
Then as I was walking through Target one day, I remembered and bee-lined for the bathroom aisle, fully intending to only buy a liner. Wellllllllllllll.... I couldn't talk myself out of getting a new shower curtain. My rationalizations were: We have had ours for almost 2.5 years. I really, really like it. It was only $19 and it has completely changed the look of the bathroom. See:



It definitely has a bolder look than our other curtain, but I am a fan. Thankfully, so is the hubby, because he didn't see it until it was up. :) What do you think? Ya like it?

Weekend Highlights

This past weekend was PACKED with stuff. I was a busy, busy girl. I wanted to share some of the highlights with ya'll

Saturday morning:
I left home, bright and early, to head to my cousin's for a Wheel-a-thon. She works as a PT at a rehab center and this was an event raising money and awareness for people with disabilities. There was a 2-mile route which people walked or wheeled with the wheelchairs provided. It was to show the difficulties that people with disabilities face, even to just go for a "walk" by the river. After the walk we had some lunch and a little pool time.

Saturday night:
I dragged my wonderful husband, who is not currently a country music fan (even though I am trying my hardest) to the first of five country concerts we will be attending this summer. He is SUCH a good sport.  Concert #1 was headlined by Rascal Flatts, along with Justin Moore, Eastin Corbin, and Sara Evans (who my husband just referred to as "Susan Evans" bahaha) . We had lawn seats, which I will probably advise against getting (and moms out there - don't let your pretty blonde teenage daughters get lawn seats... just pay for actual seats or else she is going to be hit on by very drunk boys too old to be looking at her). I was just starting to really enjoy myself when a glass bacardi bottle came flying from behind us and slammed into my hub's shoulder. I was not a happy camper after that.... I was irritated that everyone was being so drunk and stupid and was very concerned about my husband's well-being. *grumble* Anyway, the concert was actually fabulous, it was just too bad we weren't able to enjoy it as much as we could have. His shoulder is a bit sore, but overall he's fine.

Sunday was a day of productivity for me - I got a TON of stuff done - so you get it in a list
1. Laundry - done
2. Dogs to the park
3. New fish tank for Steve
4. New shower-head thingy installed for the pups' baths
5. Pups bathed with new aforementioned shower head thingy
6. Made chocolate chip pancakes
7. Cleaned up patio
8. Cleaned kitchen and did all the dishes
9. Went for a bike ride
10. Finished a book
11. Played a game of Scrabble with my sis and mom in laws.
12. Squeezed in 2 episodes of the X-Files. :)

And Monday night - even though it is not part of the weekend we had a great dinner and it was suggested that I blog about it.  :)
We are finally putting Brandon's Christmas grill to good use. I picked up this delish Raspberry Chipotle sauce from Target just because it looked yummy. Here's a peek into my fridge:

Brandon grilled us some chicken breasts while I made some organic white cheddar mac and cheese and peas. He brushed on the sauce at the very end so it was like a glaze. I also used some for dipping sauce (I really like stuff saucy!) Sooooo yummy!! It turned ordinary chicken breasts into something special (clearly, we are not gourmet cooks over here). The sauce had a smokey, tangy flavor with the slight sweetness of the raspberry. It was REALLY good. I can't wait to try more Archer Farms grilling sauces.

Now, to gear-up for the holiday weekend. We are doing some traveling and some camping. Look forward to that blog post. haha :)

Are you doing anything fun over the 4th?

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Book Review

“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog's master whispers into the dog's ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog's soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like.

I learned that from a program on the National Geographic channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.

I am ready.”

Last night, my dear husband, found me crying like a baby and holding on tightly to our dear pups in our bed as I finished the 2nd to last chapter of this book.

It is a good book that can bring me to tears – and not just once. It isn’t hopeless though, for all of you out there thinking there is no way you would read such a depressing book. There is a very uplifting story woven in this book and the end leaves you with hope.

I really enjoy reading books in which the narrator is a dog. There are so many times that I look into my own pup’s eyes and see so much humanity there. It is nearly impossible not to believe that they have some stream of consciousness in their little puppy brains. And, who is more capable of unconditional love than your dog? Anyway, I always enjoy dog books. The last one I read was A Dog’s Purpose, which also had me in tears, multiple times. There is just something completely heartwarming about reading about the world through the eyes of a dog.

Enzo, a loveable mutt, tells the story of his master’s life with smatterings of race cars and driving tips. I felt like this was definitely a guy-ish book, since I have absolutely zero interest in racing. Enzo does deliver philosophical messages throughout his racing knowledge, which made those parts easier to read for me. While those parts were a little dry, I was completely caught up in the story of Denny and Eve and Zoe and their life. It was such a true to life plot and I felt their pain (and their joy) as acutely as Enzo did. It was wonderful.

An easy read, a completely, utterly lovable narrator, and a heart-wrenching, but heartwarming story woven in and told with love. Thank you, Miss AlliFerg for the recommendation. I am so glad I read this book.

What's not to love?

*Gasp* I just learned that a movie of this book is supposed to be coming out next year with Patrick Dempsy as Denny. Oh, I hope it is good.

Kitchen Light Loathing

I HATE my kitchen light fixtures. HATE them. I thought they were all cute and modern when we moved in, but living with them on a day to day basis has revealed more flaws than appeal. They give off more heat than light. The bulbs are like little individual spot lights and there are areas of the kitchen that do not get adequate lighting. The bulbs are also a HUGE pain to change - Brandon and I have broken more than our fair share in the past year and I am a little bitter at a light fixture that requires more than one person to change a bulb. These are the current fixtures:

Not so bad at first glace. Just live with them for a year. So, I am starting to look for some practical light fixtures that I can replace these with. From what the men in my life tell me, it won't be difficult to do. We will just store those bad boys until we move out and we could be in this apartment for a pretty long time, so I might as well love my lights :)
Here are some inspiration photos. I am just looking at style right now - I will worry about finding some bargains once I have a clear idea of what I would like. Keep in mind too that my kitchen-style is pretty countryfied now. I need something that is going to give off a good amount of light - and have 2 places to put up fixtures. I was also thinking about supplementing with some push-on lights, mounted underneath the cabinets, to give a little more light to the cooking space.
OK- now pick your favorites!!
Option #1

Option #2

Option #3 - kinda similar to 1

Option #4 - kinda similar to 1 and 3

Option #5

Option #6

Option #7

*sigh* Ultimate-fantasy-someday light.
 Alrighty - tell me your thoughts kids!

What I Wore Wednesday - 4th edition

Well, it's Wednesday again so I am linking up to The Pleated Poppy!
Going to Work
 Dress: Hand me down from Mama Derry (originally The Gap)
Tank and Shoes: Target
Necklace : Dominican

Going to: Work
Pants: Maurices
Sweater: Hand me down from Mama Derry
Shoes: Target
Earrings: Target
Going to Work

I really felt like I was having a bad hair day on this day and thought my shirt was a little to tight to actually wear out of the house, but was running too late to remedy either situation. Apparently, I looked fine, because I got a lot of compliments. 
Pants and Top: The Limited 
Shoes: Target
Necklace: Not sure...

I was super excited to wear my new headband! And - I am officially at the last hole on this belt! yay!  :)
Going to: Work
Dress: Charlotte Russe
Boots: Shoe Carnival
Sweater and Headband: Target
Belt: I think Forever 21.

Going to Work:
Top, Shoes, and Scarf: Target
Skirt: Can't recall 
Earrings: Forever 21
Going to Work (Do I ever go anywhere else?)
Top: Hand me down from Nana
Pants: The Limited 
Shoes: Target
Belt: Christmas gift from Nana
Going to: The Dog Park! yay! Sophie is excited!
Tank and Hat: Target
Jeans: Can't remember
Sweater: Christmas gift from Mama Derry
Bracelet: Forever 21
This is a terrifying picture - I don't think I have had my photo willingly taken in shorts in YEARS. I have had a whole barrel of insecurities about my chubby, stubby, white, pasty legs. *Shudder* 
Going to: Derry's to man the garage sale
Shirt: The Gap
Shorts: Charlotte Russe
Flip Flops: Wal Mart? 
Belt: Macy's
This might be my favorite! 
Going to: Church for Father's Day
White Sweater: Maurice's
Everything else: Target
Going to Work - ugh, bad hair day. I feel like the way I look is directly related to the heat. The higher the temp the worse I look. 
Top: Target
Shoes: Payless
Skirt: Charlotte Russe 
Necklace: Christmas gift from Mama Derry 
Going to Work (Apparently, I like this color combo)
Dress: Hand me down from Mama Derry 
Tank: Target 
Boots: Shoe Carnival 
Necklace: Lia Sophia cast-off from Nana

So - which one do you like best? Why?
And - would you like me to make this weekly, instead of bi-weekly? Is this too many pics?

Relay For Life

Last weekend, Brandon's family and I participated in the local Relay For Life event. It is a fund-raising event put on by the American Cancer Society. It was originally started by a man in 1986 who ran on a track for 24 hours straight to raise money for the American Cancer Society. It has evolved over the last 25 years to a nationwide series of overnight events. The monies raised go towards several different things in 4 categories:
  • Helping people stay well ¬ We helping people everywhere take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable.
  • Helping people get well We are in their corner around the clock to guide people through every step of their cancer experience.
  • Finding cures We fund groundbreaking research that helps us understand cancer’s causes, determine how best to prevent it, and discover new ways to cure it.
  • Fighting back Together with a grassroots force of citizen-soldiers, we work with lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and rally communities worldwide to join the fight. 
  • (From the Relay for life website)
The events are a lot of fun, but emotional too. There is a very powerful Survivor Lap where those who are fighting or have beat cancer take a lap around the track. Then there is the luminaria ceremony where we remember those who are fighting or who have lost their battle with cancer. A bag with a person's name on it is lit by glowstick (used to be candles) once it is dark. Then, all of the names are read.

I wanted to share some pictures from the evening with everyone. This year's theme was Rock and Roll, so our team name was The Red Hot Derry Peppers!

Sister in law made the awesome sign!
There were some themed laps:
Pajama Lap - at like 1 am.

Crazy Hair Lap

Christmas Lap
Our littlest, cutest, furriest Relay-ers got evicted from the event early on, (No pups allowed apparently) but they got in one lap!
Their shirts had little chili peppers on them too!
Then there were a couple special events throughout the night.
Mr. Relay contest (Several men/boys dressed as girls and solicited money - the one with the most wins. haha)

Miss Anna won an MP3 Player from a Best Buy raffle

Dunkin Donuts sponsored lap! They gave away muchkins! YUM!
And, my favorite, most meaningful part of the night:


Listening to the names
It was an awesome night. We didn't quite make it until 6 am (we packed up around 1 am - it was coooold!). Maybe next year we will be troopers and make it all night! I am so grateful to my family who did this with me. They were so amazing and supportive and really made it a fun, memorable experience.

The Watermelon Diet

That comic cracked me up. There are definitely days when I feel like that.

Anyway, this watermelon diet, don't worry I am NOT trying it. I just heard about it from a woman at work. Her friend is going to eat nothing but watermelon for several days. After 5 days she has already lost 12 pounds. Now, that may seem impressive, but it just makes me shudder because of all that I have learned recently about nourishing my body. It makes me sad and a little bit pissed off at America in general when I hear about these crazy fad diets. Our culture is so impatient and demanding. We want everything right this minute, no, we want it done yesterday.
Just this morning, I witnessed a lady experience some serious road rage in the McDonald's drive thru! She was yelling and honking because the car in front of her wasn't moving fast enough. Then she pulled out with tires squealing! It was ridiculous. Sorry you had to wait 2 more minutes for your Egg McMuffin. Yikes.

Back to the diet.

Weight loss is work. It takes self-control and discipline and self-motivation. You can't simply eat watermelon for weeks and have a healthy, long-term weight loss. The minute this woman starts eating like a normal human being again she is going to pack back on the pounds because she has messed up her metabolism. I am constantly having this argument with Nana too. She is forever trying to most recent diet she saw on Oprah or read in the National Enquirer (those are some doozies). She always tells me that I need to try them too and I always tell her no. I am going to eat a calorie-controlled, well-balanced diet and be more physically active. That is absolutely the ONLY healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. It is about a lifestyle change, not one week of watermelon.

Is it easy?

I have been working on being more healthy (I won't say to lose weight, because that isn't the ultimate goal) and have a more active lifestyle since February. So four months.
I have lost 8 pounds. I have shed 3.5 inches off of my waist and 1 inch off of my hips. I feel awesome about that. Yes, it is taking a really long time. And yes, I still have a long way to go. I don't eat great every day. I fall off the wagon all of the time. But, I get back on. I lace up my shoes and go for a run. I choose yogurt over ice cream. I keep working. I am liking the results and people are starting to notice. I have had so many co-workers ask me if I am losing weight in the last week. I like to be able to say yes and am now even more motivated to keep on working towards my goals.

Let's re-visit "Fat Ashlea" and meet "Just Chubby Ashlea"
Ah yes - fat girl with ice cream. Judge away. :) (Summer 2010)

And now - I have to confess - I am cheating a little in this pic. Shape-wear rocks my world. Kelly Osborne would be proud. Still, though, a considerable difference.

Definite progress. Maybe, by this time next year, I can shop for a bikini, instead of tummy-controlling one pieces! A girl can dream!! :)

Anniversary Weekend Getaway

*Disclaimer: This will be a photo-heavy post!

This year Brandon and I celebrated two years of wedded bliss. :) I feel like the last 2 years have absolutely flown by because we have been so busy. To celebrate this year, we spent a long weekend in Galena, IL, a cute little historical town. Here are some pictures of our weekend. (Sorry there aren't too many actual photos of me and Brandon - we both felt like it was too hot and looked too gross to have much photographic evidence. lol)

We stayed at Anne Wiggen's B & B: 

We ate at Procento's Pizza and went on a carriage ride Friday night:
Yummy Hawaiian Pizza :)

I was a little under-whelmed with the carriage ride, but it was a fun way to end the day. Saturday we went on a tour of Linmar Gardens, strolled around downtown, went to a lovely dinner, and then a ghost tour. Here is a smattering of pictures:

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter gardens

This was hilarious. They are Civil War actors and were checking out the car show downtown.

This is Galena High School

We had to run up these stairs to make it to the garden tour on time. I nearly died. There are 193 steps - or so our inn-keepers told us. 

 Bumblebee from the car show :)

I regret not taking pictures of every course of this meal. It was a-maz-ing. I was too busy eating until I got to dessert to remember to take pics :) 
Ghost Tour: (This was my favorite part of the whole weekend! So much fun! I think this is the best way to get a historical tour of a town. It was great!)
President Grant's House (Along with our tour guide)

Looking for ghosts wandering the cemetery looking for their graves :)

It was such a pretty cemetery
We had a great weekend. Brandon really enjoyed the country scenery of the drive and trying to maximize our gas mileage with our new car. I think that we both came back feeling relaxed and refreshed. Our pups though, came back plain tired from spending the weekend with Nana and Papa.