the EZ life

New address June 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — theezlife @ 2:44 pm

I’ve started a different blog- still powered by wordpress- but I’m at http://www.e-townonline.com now! Just in case anyone likes what they see here and wants to follow along over there. :)

 

When I Grow Up October 30, 2008

Filed under: EZ Stories — theezlife @ 4:28 pm
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Gone are my childhood days when I and my friends knew with certainty what we wanted to “be” when we grew up. Dancers, firefighters, teachers (my personal choice ), astronauts, even the president of the United States (I’m not sure if any of them would really want that job NOW!), we were all pretty sure what we wanted to be. In our kindergarten world view, your profession defined you.

We had parents who were simply “Moms,” “librarians,” “businessmen,” and “engineers.” I grew up with a “Nurse-mom” and an “Engineer-dad.” (And I never really understood what exactly my dad did everyday… I just knew that he had a lot of fun office supplies to play with when my sister and I would go into the office with him on certain Saturdays. Don’t underestimate the magic in permanent markers, highlighters and a giant pad of paper on an easel… especially to a little girl who wants to be a teacher when she grows up and has a little sister who is relatively willing to sit and be a diligent pupil!)

Then, I started high school. And I didn’t really like a lot of my teachers. Some were great, others, not so much… And I started to question, could I see myself teaching the SAME subject day after day, year after year? Wouldn’t I be bored if I taught younger kids because of the lack of conversations/debates that took place in so many of my secondary education classes? (I’ve come to think- no, probably not. But, that was what I was thinking as a Junior/Senior in high school)

As college application time came around, I decided that it was kinda important that I have some idea of what I wanted to study for four years if for no other reason than it would help me narrow down the choices of colleges. I settled on Architecture. My rationalization was along the lines of, “Well, I like (and am pretty good at) math and science, but I really enjoy being creative… I really like houses, and all of the renovation/redecoration stuff we’ve done at our house since we moved in… and I really believe that there has to be a better way to build houses for the less-fortunate than the way government/low-income housing is done now.” (the last thought was inspired by a summer short-term mission trip to South Dakota, which I’ll have to write about later)

Anyway, I chose a good university that ended up having a very well- respected architecture program (which I didn’t know when I signed up) and I spent the next four years living on very little sleep and late night snacks of crackers, water, and gum (you should’ve seen the stuff my classmates ate!) to churn out drawings, scale models, and “boards.” It was a lot like hard work- with a lot of fun acitivities like throwing ninja stars made out of drafting tape and exacto blades at foam core targets added in. I graduated with a group of life-long  friends- the kinds of which can only be formed during late night line dancing lessons amidst the chaos of cardboard, foam core, basswood, acetate, and LOTS of Tacky Glue (or, alternatively, boxes of uncooked spaghetti noodles and dozens of hot glue guns… I’m going to have to write a “series” on “architecture school”) AND a degree Bachelor’s of Science in Architectural Studies.

Now, I’m working at a non-profit organization that builds super energy efficient houses for low-income families and trying to decide again, what I want to be when I grow up. I could go back to school to get my Master’s of Architecture. I could go back to school to get a Master’s of Education and a teacher’s certificate. I could keep working here. I could join the Teach for America corps. I could do a lot of things… and life isn’t as simple as it was when I was in kindergarten, teaching my little sister what I  had learned that day while we played “school.” There are a lot more factors to consider now. The job market, the economy, our family economy,  my husband’s job/career, our immediate and eventual future plans… Lucky for me, I do know for sure ONE occupation that I want to be “when I grow up.”

A mom. Now there’s just all the other decisions to make, preparations, steps, etc. In the meantime, I’m really enjoying my job as a “wife.” :)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Choosing joy (and future plans!),

E

 

Baby Shower Gift October 21, 2008

Filed under: EZ Homemade gifts — theezlife @ 4:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
Noah's Ark- Baby Style

Noah's Ark- baby style

 My family has a thing for Noah’s Ark. It’s probably because for several years, my grandpa built and painted small wooden arks and my grandpa sculpted and painted hundreds of pairs of animals and they sold them at craft shows. They were known as “Roger and Joan of Ark.” Each of their 5 kids now owns an ark as well… and my mom has a small Christmas tree that is completely devoted to Noah’s Ark ornaments. Because of this, when I saw the above album as part of a scrapbook kit in Hobby Lobby, I couldn’t  help but buy it for my cousin who’s baby is due within the next 2 months. I love to scrapbook, and have found that most people truly enjoy having/looking through scrapbooks (more so than plain albums) but many are too busy/too intimidated by getting started to ever make their own. Hence my idea for the perfect shower gift. I know a new mom won’t have that much (if any!) time to learn how to scrapbook so I did most of the work for her. I bought the album, complete with kit- matching/complementary papers, stickers, embellishments, etc. and have assembled it WITHOUT pictures. Then, I’m leaving post-it notes with instructions of where to journal (write captions) and what size photos will fit on each framing mat throughout the book. Now, all my cousin has to do, is take photos, trim them occasionally, glue them in where appropriate and write captions for them. It was a little bit of a challenge for me to scrap without photos  because usually my layouts/color scheme center around the photos I want to highlight. However, we know the baby is going to be a boy and having all of the matching papers and stickers helped a lot. (I have supplemented with some of my stash from home too… but only a little). I got faster and it turned out to be really fun!

I think this idea could also be applied to wedding gifts (use their wedding colors and that way, they can have a ready made scrapbook to fill with some snapshots from their wedding- and maybe won’t have to pay for a professional album- or at least, they’ll have some place to put all the pictures that YOU took at their wedding!), or birthdays too. (Make a mini album, themed for how old they’re turning- or, if you’re having a party, have the album match the theme). I’ve included photos of my layouts for your inspiration… I think the pages will look WAY better once they are filled with adorable pictures and handwritten notes from Mom to Son.

A place for that first picture and the baby announcement

A place for that first picture and the baby announcement

Sorry for the glare... it's still in it's sleeve.

Sorry for the glare...

This one is my favorite

This one is my favorite

GRRR… I just spent a long uploading every stinking page and now they’re gone! Plus the front page of this blog is all weird now… What’s the deal with that? I’ll try another post later and maybe it’ll fix itself!

Anyway, I still have a few more pages to make, but I like what I’ve done so far. I hope my cousin will too!

Aren’t baby things adorable? Make something for a baby in your life- it’s fun! :)

Creatively,

E

 

Montreal October 20, 2008

Filed under: EZ Stories — theezlife @ 3:07 pm
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I love to travel… after studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain a few years ago with side trips to Rome and Athens, I can’t WAIT to be able to go back to Europe! For anyone who’s been, you know what I mean… for those of you who haven’t, you should definitely go. Seriously. Or at least hit up Africa, Asia, or South America. (I hear Costa Rica is pretty sweet.)  And for those of you who can’t afford the trans-atlantic flight (like me!), consider Montreal in Quebec, Canada. Z and I roadtripped our way up there on our honeymoon and although we only stayed for a few days, we really did feel like we had been transported to some historic, European city (hearing/seeing French everywhere helps). It was beautiful, the people were super friendly and helpful, and the FOOD… it was heavenly.

Walking through the modern part of the City... headed towards the historic district. (Z likes to take diagonal pictures!)

Walking through the modern part of the City... headed towards the historic district. (Z likes to take diagonal pictures!)

 We stayed at the Sofitel… and it was by far the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in… and unanimously voted the best breakfast both of us have ever had. (also most expensive!)

Thus begins my love of Eggs Benedict...

Thus begins my love of Eggs Benedict...

Studying architecture as an undergraduate has given me a new appreciation for churches. This was one of the most impressive (and colorful!) that I have ever seen in person. (Don’t count St. Peter’s Basilica aka the Vatican… that was mind-blowing!)

It's not really tilted that way... can you tell who took the picture?

It isn't really tilted like that... can you tell who took the picture?

 We stopped in the church on our way to “Old Montreal.” If you’re looking for the “old European City feel” complete with cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes, look no further!

I wish I was there right now...

I wish I was there right now...

Listening to some street musicians in the Plaza... trying to decide which delicious cafe to hit up for lunch. (Sorry, haven't yet figured out how to rotate pictures after they're already uploaded! Maybe you can't...)

Listening to some street musicians in the Plaza... trying to decide which delicious cafe to hit up for lunch. (Sorry, haven't figured out how to rotate pictures after they are already uploaded... maybe you can't!)

 After a glorious few days in Montreal, we headed to Maine for some camping and a beautiful Bed and Breakfast… all that to come later. For now, make plans to travel to Montreal. (It’s WAAAAY better than Niagra Falls!)

Dreaming of Canada,

E

 

Passive Houses

Filed under: EZ Living — theezlife @ 12:35 pm
Tags: , , ,
This will probably be the first of several posts to cover this topic. In a country where LEED and Energy Star Ratings have become buzz words (at least in the architecture/building world!), a new standard is finally starting to get some notice. I have had the privilege of working with the founders of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and I certainly feel that they are definitely on to something.

Started in Germany over 10 years ago by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the Passive House Standard is the highest “building energy standard” in the world. Using careful design and construction methods, the energy usage of the house is reduced by up to 90%! (Imagine your energy bill- for heating, cooking, electricity, hot water, etc- to be about $120 for a 3 bed, 2 bath house, in the middle of winter, in Illinois- COLD, WET winters!) PHIUS founder, Katrin Klingenberg, learned how to design and construct these super-insulated, air- tight, energy efficient homes from Dr. Feist and then brought that knowledge to the US. There are now 10 certified Passive Houses in the US, with more under construction. With the building sector sucking up so much of our valuable resources, Passive Houses offer a compelling alternative way to construct our buildings. If, as a nation, we are able to vastly reduce our consumption of non-renewable energy resources, we will be able to meet our demand with clean, renewable energy much sooner/ more easily and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Germany and Austria are already making great strides in this direction- I hope that the US can get caught up! I’ll explain in more detail what makes this homes so  unique but in the meantime, I encourage you to check out PHIUS and the work that they are doing to help our world use less energy while providing beautiful, comfortable homes for people.

Choose Joy,

E

 

A few of My Favorite Things

Filed under: EZ Stories — theezlife @ 3:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

Humming Julie Andrew’s famous song during the writing of my previous post has me thinking about some of my favorite things. Not just my favorite necklace (a gift from my husband for Christmas while we were still dating), or favorite food (watermelon), but the simple things in my life that make my heart joyful to just be alive to be able experience them. Here are a few- not in any particular order.

Autumn: I don’t know exactly when my love for Fall began but I do know that many of the reasons that rustling golden leaves, the amber sunlight unique to autumnal afternoons, and the bite of crisp air that stings your cheeks just enough to leave them a little rosy fill me with a sense of peace and optimism are deeply rooted in childhood memories. The beginning of a new school year was always full of anticipation and excitement for a “nerd” like me. (I’ve come to admit that I really love to learn… and that I was fortunate enough to always have my best friend around so I was never bullied or alone in school) Celebrating my September birthday was always a “big deal” in our house and my parents threw many unique parties (which I’ll describe in a later post) for my friends and I. Apple picking was a special family event that typically culminated in donuts, cider and eventually, Mom’s Apple Pie. And then, there was Thanksgiving which, in our house, officially launched the beginning of the Christmas season- and all of the anticipation and merriment associated with Christmas in our house (also to be covered in a later post.)

While my love of Fall began as a child and was nurtured throughout my adolescence, it was during college that I was finally able to admit my full enchantment with the season. It was one chilly evening in early October of my sophomore year when my good friend, Z, asked me to go for a walk with him. As I was already head-over-heals for the guy and was in daily agony over the mystery of whether he returned my affections or not, I was nearly sick from the nerves that set dozens of flighty critters to cavorting in my stomach. Thinking that I could silence the tumult in my belly, I talked for an hour straight as we took the longest walk of our relationship (and I am NOT that talkative of a person!). When I finally exhausted my repetoire of softball stories and had filled Z in on every detail I could think of about my family’s current status in the world, he was finally able to get in more words than a “uh huh.” The following is what happened next:

Z: “Well, should we keep walking? It’s getting kinda chilly…” (we had taken a break from our miles long hike to sit on a bench in the middle of the Arboretum… still my favorite place on our college campus)

E: “Uh, sure.” (nervously trying to think of something- ANYTHING- else to keep blabbing about)

Z: (clearing his throat) “Well, I did bring you out here for a reason tonight and I want to talk to you about something. I guess there is no point in beating around the bush so I’m just going to come out and say it… E, I’ve spent this semester falling in love with you.”

E: (heart pounding, palms immediately sweating, and mind racing for the perfect thing to say to the most wonderful thing my ears had ever heard) “Yay?”

(Yes, I did say it as a question. I was trying to express the fact that I had indeed been falling in love with him but was rather struck dumb by his simple statement and my mind was too muddled with “He’s falling in love with me! He’s fallen in love with me! HE LOVES ME?!” to come up with a more suitable answer to his unspoken question of, “So, do you love me too?” After a moment, my mouth caught up with my brain and…)

E: “That’s a really good thing.”

Z: “Yeah?”

E: “Yeah, I uh, feel the same way…” (still, very eloquent… I must’ve used all my words in hour long soliqouy earlier!)

Z: (visibly relaxing) “Oh good…”

He went on to explain how he’d been thinking about it a lot and realized that he could be risking our friendship by confessing his feelings if they weren’t reciprocated but after talking with his dad (his go-to guy for advice) he decided to take the chance. (I’m sure glad he did!) We started to walk back to my dorm as he gently asked, “So, can I hold your hand?” Grinning, I pulled my left hand from deep inside my vest pocket (that vest is another one of my favorite things!) and as our fingers inter-laced, my love for him, and for Fall, were forever linked. Now, every October brings back the thrill and excitement of our first few weeks together and reminds me of how it felt to fall in love him for the very first time.

So, yeah, I love Fall.  A lot.

Campfires: They say that our sense of smell is the strongest trigger of memories. I believe “them.” The woodsy, smoky smell of a campfire will always carry me back to innumerable times around a small fire pit with my family and melting marshmallows on the end of shaved tree branches on one of our many camping vacations, or to our fire pit in our own backyard around which high school friends would talk until the wee hours of the morning, or large bonfires at church camp where a counselor would strum his guitar and a hundred middle-schoolers would sing together before bed. There is just something about sitting around a campfire and talking (or singing) that will always be one of my all time favorite things to do. (Maybe it’s because they are extra perfect during the FALL…)

Christmas: I need another post to fully explain all of the things I love about Christmas (and it’s NOT just the presents!)… especially since I already shared my “how my husband asked me out” story in this one.

Reading: If I could spend all day, every day reading and not feel guilty about not doing anything else in life, I probably would. I read my first “Chapter Book” in first grade when I was jealous that my best friend got to sit at the teacher’s desk and read them while the rest of us sat on the floor and had reading lessons. When I shared my feelings with my mom, she handed me “The Boxcar Children” and after just reading the first page, I could hardly sleep because of my excitement over the whole new world that was open to me in “Chapter Books.” I never looked back… and I’ve never stopped reading.

Being Married: Again, I do not have the time, energy, or space to share all of the things that I love about married life but some quick highlights would have to be: waking up next to my best friend every morning and starting off every day with plenty of hugs and kisses, knowing that no matter what is on our schedules each day, that we will end the day with each other, and feeling constantly encouraged and supported in all of my endeavors no matter how frustrated or burnt-out I may feel. I hope that no matter how many years you have been married, you still feel the joy of being with your spouse!

I have probably written enough for one night… if you’re reading this, what are some of your favorite things? What makes YOUR heart sing and fills you with joy? I hope your list is long!

Cheers,

E

 

Make Believe

Filed under: EZ Stories — theezlife @ 2:12 am
Tags: ,

I grew up with Fraulein Maria singing to me whenever I was sick and home from school. My younger sister and I would lay on our lion and polar bear shaped body pillows in the middle of the brown carpet that covered our living room and diligently memorize every word to every song (and much of the dialogue) of “The Sound of Music” and then spend the rest of the day wishing we could grow up in a mansion in Austria. Sipping our 7-Up and eating jello, we’d imagine running through mountain top meadows in our beautiful dresses (with a seamstress mother, we really did have a lot of beautiful dresses that we wore quite often), and, when we were well, often re-enacted the puppet show scene by tying yarn to our dolls and dangling them into my grandparents’ dining room from the loft above. Needless to say, this classic movie was (and still is) one of my favorites.

My sister is 2 years younger than me and, instead of fighting and bickering like many siblings, we spent most of our time playing together and imagining alternative lives for ourselves. With our homemade dresses, love of reading, and our American Girl Dolls, we were alternately Anne of Green Gables and her bosom friend, Diana Barry, Laura and her older sister, Mary Ingalls, Kirsten or Samantha (2 of the original American girls), and (once my grandparents showed us the original Star Wars trilogy when we went to visit them) the independent and strong-willed Princess Leia. Instead of watching a lot of TV, we read or created our own stories in our backyard- activities strongly encouraged by our parents. They took to us to many different historical re-enactments including “Old World Wisconsin” and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, which is still one of my favorite vacations. 

Laura and Mary Ingalls (with a penguin baby brother)

I often wish that my imagination was as strong now as it was when I was in grade school. Although I still read quite a lot, I was a voracious reader as a child (my husband thinks I was a nerd), and could easily dream up entire worlds where I was any number of unique and creative heroines. Now, my imagination seems to mostly focus on alternative life scenarios based upon various choices made. “What will my life be like in 5 years if I go back to grad school to get my Master’s degree in Architecture?” “What will my life be like in 5 years if I DON’T go back to grad school to get my Master’s degree?” “What will my life be like NEXT year if I don’t go back to grad school?” While I realize that this is an essential skill to have in order to make life decisions, I do miss the innocent, childish ability to invent stories and characters from thin air. I hope my future children will be as enthralled as I was in the world of stories and their imagination and in the meantime, perhaps it just takes some practice for adults to remember how to make believe…

Keep day-dreaming,

E

 

 
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