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Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

Our family members run together for the most part when it comes to television and movies. Sure, there are slight differences here and there, but we are mostly on the same page when it comes to viewing preferences.

That’s why I was trying to get D, our 23-year-old, to watch “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. I knew he would like it. He wasn’t living here when it was first released but in light of Season 2 coming out soon (April 15!), I wanted to binge watch it all over again with him and he was, for lack of a better word, “meh”: completely unenthused about getting started.

I had to apply a little pressure, because that’s what he does. We’ve been saying since the time he spoke his first words that he was destined to be an attorney. He has mad skills in persuasion, and we seriously cannot figure out where he got them because Jim and I are not the slightest bit pushy. Okay, maybe I am. A little. Wait, maybe that’s where he got it.

ANYWAY, I kept telling him that he was going to love Kimmy and Titus and Company. He still wasn’t overly thrilled to watch, so I pulled a trick out of my parenting bag and decided to start the series again when he happened to be in the room. Just as I suspected, I was right. His laughter was loud and plentiful, and we kept watching.

I even—hold onto your hat—got a “thanks for making me watch Kimmy, Mom.”

*wipes tears*

I mean, isn’t that what all parents want? To be thanked by their children for pressuring them into watching awesome television shows?? But I digress.

Now we’re super psyched and all up-to-date on Kimmy and friends, and we’re ready for them to return to Netflix on April 15.

Speaking of super-psyched, I JUST found out that another awesome source of family viewing togetherness is now available on Netflix: “The Animaniacs”.

Animaniacs

THIS thrills me to no end. My boys learned the state capitols and so many other things just by watching siblings Yakko, Wakko, Dot, and the rest of those crazy characters when they originally aired in the 90’s. On repeat. As much as possible. And then on VHS. All the time. Forever. Amen. OMG.

One of the many awesome things about “The Animaniacs” was that there were adult jokes woven in, too. That’s a common method in the animated movies and shows that are coming out these days, but twenty years ago it was revolutionary. I don’t know for sure if that element alone kept me watching with interest and laughing my head off, but I know it sure helped!

It’s going to be a busy month for us around here, thanks to Netflix. (and by “busy”, I mean “sittin’ around the television set, laughing our fool heads off”.) And we’re just getting started, because April “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” brings May “Grace and Frankie”. More on that later!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Spring Cleaning

Back when the boys were younger, spring cleaning happened in all four seasons.
Rather, it was attempted in all four seasons. As a young family we were constantly bringing stuff (and more stuff) into the house, whether we purchased it or it was given as gifts or hand-me-downs. The struggle for extra space was real, all the time.

Coming from a long line of packrats and being a mostly-recovered one myself (long story) it shouldn’t have surprised me when my older son D was traumatized at the mere suggestion of getting rid of, well, anything. It was his opinion that we should keep everything, because we might need it someday. This didn’t just cover his own belongings, by the way. He felt the same way about family items, even if we had outgrown them or they were no longer in working order.

When he was five years old, I ran out of patience with his insistence that the broken television I needed to throw away was still a valuable commodity. It eventually occurred to me that the “Take a picture; it’ll last longer” philosophy might be a great strategy for my Junior Packrat, who had recently received a Fisher Price camera that used real film.

Indeed it was: he took pictures of the television and then deemed it fine to release from our possession. I also have, thanks to our son, pictures of our old charcoal grill, a microwave, and other household items, catalogued in with our Kodak Lab-developed family memories along with photos of birthday parties, summer days running through the sprinkler, and first days of school.

These days, the kids are grown up and the purging of unneeded or broken items isn’t as much of a struggle: Jim and I just head for the donation pile or the trash can when we find something that needs to go. Every now and then there’s a snag: while I can typically overcome my genetic Packrat urges with help from the recent Konmari craze (Does this spark joy? No? Great: throwing it away!), I have a weakness for furniture, specifically when it’s a piece we have created, or something we’ve had for years.

Exhibit A: the table that Jim built from reclaimed wood for our screened-in porch. After he assembled the table, he and I covered the top with Mexican tile.

The table spent a bunch of good years next to the two Adirondack chairs on the back porch, sheltered from the elements and only needing an occasional wipedown to continue looking good. Each time I looked at it I remembered how we picked out each tile individually and how much we enjoyed putting it all together to create the final product. It made me smile. It was a conversation piece when we entertained in the backyard, and I loved telling its story.

Eighteen months ago we got new siding for the house and, unfortunately, the screened-in porch had to be sacrificed. It was built at the same time as the house, and a 45-year-old screened-in porch just doesn’t look very good with brand new siding. What was lost along with the screened-in porch was the shelter for that Mexican tile table, and even though it lived in the shed during the winter months, it quickly deteriorated from rainy summer nights on the newly topless patio.

Two weekends ago Jim and I were doing our spring cleaning routine for the backyard, and when he pulled the table out of the shed he said that he thought it was time to get rid of it. Heartbreaker.

One look at it told me he was right and the decision was reinforced when, as he lifted the table over his head to carry it over to the garbage bins, the tiles slid off like hot butter on a dinner roll. I winced.

As soon as we finished our chores and got cleaned up I rushed to grab my laptop because I thought I had taken pictures of the table at some point. Indeed I did, and the relief I felt from having a picture that will last longer than that table ever would have makes me feel a tiny bit better about moving on and perhaps even embracing the changes that are inevitable in life. Just a tiny bit.

Tile Table

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Oh, Nothing.

I’m good at quite a few things, like accomplishing tasks like a madwoman.
I’m terrible at quite a few things too, like doing nothing at all.

Nothing

To me, a Type A Control Freak Perfectionist Workaholic, the idea of doing nothing seems horrifying, dreamlike, and extremely unattainable in equal parts. I mean, in theory I love the idea. In practice, it feels like a waste of time. Either way, doing nothing at all as a part of my plan (because I always have a plan) is nearly impossible, mentally AND physically.

My friends know me as a Do-er. I have been told more than once that I am envied for my ability to get things done. I appreciate that, but at the same time I envy people who know how to relax because I think that’s a better, more useful life skill in so many ways.

My husband recently told me that one of his greatest wishes is for me to feel carefree, and I’ve thought a lot about that since the words came out of his mouth. I wish that I could feel that way too. Someday maybe I’ll learn to let things go a little bit (or at least loosen the reins); it’s a daily struggle for me.

Typically I “go big or go home”, but when it comes to doing nothing I just don’t think I can go all out in that area. It feels mentally draining and discouraging just to sit around because I can’t stop thinking about the time I’m “wasting”, even though in theory I know that spending time recharging is good for me. I’m willing to try, though. I shut my phone and laptop down completely yesterday, and I didn’t die. I actually read a book for twenty minutes before going to sleep last night. Baby steps. I’ve been analyzing (because that’s how I roll) different ways I can blend a little “nothing” into my life without simultaneously going insane, and I think the trick is to toss a little “nothing” in between getting minor things done around here, even if they’re simple things like dusting the bookcase or folding a load of clothes. I can’t plan to have no plans; that’s just not me.

What it boils down to is that as always, I’m a work in progress. I’m constantly trying to evolve, constantly trying to do better, and constantly trying to find a happy medium between nothing stopping me and nothing at all.

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That Voodoo That You Do (or, Big Bucket of Donuts)

I’m currently in Austin, Texas for work (we’re here to do a site visit for #BlogHerFood16, which happens in October and have you registered yet because Earlybird pricing ends 3/31!). It’s a whirlwind trip and sadly, I had to tell several friends and two relatives that I just couldn’t make any plans to meet up this time (argghhhhh).

Liz and Brandi (my social media team partner, or PARDNER as they say in Texas…don’t they?) and I arrived at the Austin airport within minutes of each other, which was a pretty cool thing considering we were coming from New Jersey, California, and Illinois. We took a cab to the hotel, checked in, and then Liz and I rushed out to grab something to eat before trolling the new Voodoo Doughnuts on 6th Street. The intention was to pick up a box of donuts/doughnuts to bring back for the team.

We walked in and made a beeline for the counter, where we were sidetracked by the display case because LOOK AT THESE:

Voodoo Donuts

I’m not sure how I missed the three enormous white buckets sitting on the countertop while I was perusing the menu board overhead, but I did, at first. Then I saw them. (They would not be ignored.) There was a sign sticking out of one of the buckets that said “Bucket of Doughnuts: $10”.

Naturally my first instinct would be to think there was something wrong with them (apologies to my extreme bargain-hunter mom, who is probably shaking her head at me, totally ashamed). There wasn’t anything wrong with them.

I questioned whether we wanted to actually carry a bucket down 6th Street in Austin (SORRY AGAIN MOM; I KNOW I KNOW THEY WERE TEN DOLLARS AND THAT IS A DEAL YOU CANNOT DENY!).

Liz said to the cashier, “Ten dollars? Really?” The totally blasé cashier confirmed, and I think Liz might have screamed “WE’RE DOING IT!!!”

Or maybe that was me.

Okay, nobody really screamed out loud, but we were very excited. See?

Liz and the bucket of donuts

When we arrived at the restaurant where the rest of the team was gathered, we made a big splash. I mean, how could we not, because BUCKET OF DONUTS. (This photo courtesy of my co-worker Lori A:)

Melisa and the bucket of donuts

Naturally everyone wanted to see them.

Bucket of Donuts

Brandi checked them out up close,

Brandi and the bucket of donuts

and Lucrecer even did a whole Periscope about them. (“Yes everyone, a bucket of donuts!”)

Lucrecer and the bucket of donuts

We barely made a dent in them last night, and will bring them into the office today even though we’ll be served a full breakfast and full lunch, because if you have a bucket of donuts you don’t want to waste them even if you’re totally stuffed on other foods. And with that, I think I have redeemed myself in the eyes of my mom so I’ll end there.

DONUTS.

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#StreamTeam: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!
When I was a young teenager, my family lived in the Fort Worth, Texas area for two years. For the first several months, we lived in a couple of rooms at the hotel my dad managed. That was when our family started our Sunday Movie tradition. Getting dad off the property where he lived AND worked was great for his morale, and we got to benefit from it, too.

One of our favorite movies was “9 to 5”, starring Dolly Parton (Doralee), Lily Tomlin (Violet), and Jane Fonda (Judy). I’m certain we saw it at the theater more than once and then later, when it was finally on HBO (this was waaaaaay before Netflix, you know!), we watched it constantly.

Workin' 9 to 5...

Workin’ 9 to 5…

“9 to 5” is a workplace comedy about three women who fantasize about taking revenge on their boss, Mr. Hart (played by Dabney Coleman), who is a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Naturally there’s a plot twist that makes their fantasy come to life, and hilarity ensues.

I watched this movie recently for the first time in years, and it was still just as funny as I remembered. What I noticed this time, as an adult female, is how far women have come in the workplace. Even though we have some work to do (no pun intended), policies like at-work day care, job sharing, and flex hours–all introduced in the office by Violet, Judy, and Doralee while Mr. Hart was out of the office because he was stuck hanging from his bedroom ceiling (haven’t seen it yet? that’s as much as I’m saying!)–are considered normal these days. Human Resource departments of today are making sure employees aren’t subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination that were daily occurrences only a few years ago. (And yes, it still happens. It’s far less common nowadays, though.)

Interesting and worth a mention: equal pay was one of the changes instigated by the trio, and was later the only one rescinded by the company’s Board Chairman. Even 1980 wasn’t ready for that.

So yeah, we’re not there yet, but I don’t think you’ll ever find a movie like “9 to 5” again. Women today are strong, in the workplace and in life; Hollywood is producing movies and shows with great roles for women. (See that? That’s my segue.)

FOR EXAMPLE: Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright) in “House of Cards”, which is a Netflix Original. Claire’s career path in the show’s arc goes like this:

Non-profit executive and lobbyist —> Second Lady of the United States
Second Lady of the United States —> First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States —> United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Claire is strong, decisive, confident, and (obviously) extremely successful. Thinking of her next to Judy, Doralee, and even Violet makes me giggle a little bit. The trio from “9 to 5” will always have a place in my heart and for that matter, in history because I think it’s always good to be able to look at where we came from. That said, I am very happy to be living in the 21st century when, both in real life and on the big and small screens, women have lots of choices and can do whatever they want to do and be whomever they want to be.

If you haven’t seen “9 to 5”, I highly recommend it as a funny history lesson. And then check out “House of Cards” in contrast. Season four is now available for streaming!

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On Being Me, Him, and Us.

D has been living at home for the past few months, commuting to the city for his full-time job and taking on extra freelance projects at night. While he’s got the normal twenty-three-year-old desire to get back out on his own because living with his parents again is just annoying in general, it’s been really nice having him around.

D and me

As I watch him juggle all the things, all the time, I alternate between smiling and cringing. On one hand, I love that he seems to have my sense of overdrive; on the other hand I feel terribly guilty for passing that gene down to him.

This conversation actually happened last week…
D, sighing heavily: “I can’t WAIT until I can finally get caught up.”
Me: “Hahahaha! You’re never going to get caught up. You’re too much like me. You will be busy forever. Sorry! Hahahahaha! Oopsie! Ugh, I’m sorry. I feel terrible.”
D: *blink, blink*

There have been other similar conversations, and they seem to be increasing in frequency as we both notice that there seems to be more of a “Twinsies!” situation than we ever expected. I’m proud, and I feel awful. I’m happy about his work ethic and feel dreadful that relaxing is difficult for him.

I know that being me (or like me) is both a blessing and a curse, but I’m trying to focus on the good stuff. I have always been one of those annoying people who could research a college term paper for two days before it was due, type up the paper (on a REAL typewriter, kids!) on the morning it was due, and receive an “A”. I work very well under pressure. So does D.

I can be in the middle of a project, stressed to the max and missing half of what I need in order to complete it, yet almost every time it all falls into place at the last minute. D has this “talent”, too.

Since high school I have been asked to lead group projects and take on organizational challenges because I get stuff done. D tells the same story.

I tend to spread myself thin and feel like I’m going in twelve directions at once but still seem to keep the balls in the air almost always, and it appears D is the same.

We’re also dependable, we have great attention to detail, and we care more than the average person about the final result. We do good work. We may push a deadline to the very last second, but we’re good self-starters and good project finishers. Usually we have good energy. People seem to like us.

I guess in the end, being us isn’t so bad, generally speaking.

All of that said, sometimes we’re not so complex. Last night when I asked D if he wanted me to make him a grilled cheese sandwich while I was making one for myself, he said, “Yes please, and cut into quarters, am I right???

Of course he’s right.
Like mother, like son.

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Day Four.

Roxie has been gone since Friday morning.

Photo courtesy of my sister, Jules

Photo courtesy of my sister, Jules

It’s been so difficult, but bits and pieces of my days are getting easier. On Friday I cried and cried and cried. On Saturday I cried and cried and slept, mostly unable to get off of the couch. Yesterday I didn’t cry at all, only becoming a little teary-eyed when taking my first walk without her.

Today, Day Four, I was fine until the vet called to let me know that her paw print was ready, and when I drove over I felt my chest tighten and all of a sudden when I parked the car I was hardly breathing, trying to push it all down so I could walk in. I cried all the way home and while I opened the small box in my kitchen. More sobbing as I pressed my fingers into the places where her paw pads were just four days ago, and then I composed myself and ate lunch.

That’s how life is right now. I’m fine and then I’m not. And then I am again. And then I’m…well, you get it.

I guess it’s a pretty normal way to be only four days after one of the most intense, traumatic periods of my life that ended very poorly, to put it lightly.

All of this happened so fast—in fact, the picture I used in the last post was taken just last Monday, which is unbelievable to me!—and she’s really EVERYWHERE in this house. I come across things here or there and I make one of three decisions: throw away (old treats), put up or away (her collar, which now has a home on top of the bookcase), or leave right there until I can handle moving it (her food and water dish, which are still on the family room floor). It’s a process. Sigh. But I’ll get there.

Everyone has been SO NICE. I have been held up by my closest friends and family, but there was so much love sent my way from pretty much every direction. I received texts and Facebook messages from people I haven’t regularly talked to in years. The kindness and support blew me away, and although there really isn’t anything that anyone can say to make the despair go away when there’s loss like this, the check-ins and messages of “I’m so sorry; I’m thinking about you” really did help me. I appreciate it so much, truly, so thank you. And you. And you. And you.

This whole ordeal has taught me (or reminded me of) a few lessons, some of which I can’t even put into words yet, but the Facebook “On This Day” feature helped bring one to the forefront this morning: appreciation of what you’ve got, when you’ve got it. This video from two years ago popped up, and I have watched it countless times today, laughing more than crying. One minute she was here, and the next she wasn’t…but boy, did we have fun while it lasted.

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Quality of Life

Advance apologies: this might be difficult for you to read, but I had to get it out, for myself.

Roxie

This dog.

Twelve days ago I was walking her down the street, both of us happy as could be.

Today, we said goodbye to her.

She was happiest when she was outside, running down the sidewalk.
Actually, she was happiest when she was eating any kind of food: hers or ours. (Beagles, man.) But getting out on the leash was a close second.

She was only eleven, one month short of twelve.
Our beloved vet, Dr. Withers–who has seen Roxie ever since she was getting puppy shots–has been telling me for the last couple of years that with her great health, spirited personality, and penchant for shenanigans even now as an older dog, he could see her as “one of those beagles that lives to be fourteen or fifteen years old”.
Obviously that was just a prediction based on observation and not a guarantee, but I agreed with him. I believed it myself, and I truly feel cheated.
This was too soon, and so damn unexpected.

A week and a half ago we discovered a problem with her eye, and that same day she started losing her balance. After vet visits and an eye specialist and steroids and painkillers and antibiotics and blood tests and eliminating certain theories before moving onto the next step and then a very steep decline in her state of being, we arrived at the neurologist, yesterday. She ruled out the illnesses that would’ve started improving with the meds and then ruled out a stroke (which was Jim’s and my theory) and concluded that–although more tests would be needed to absolutely confirm–considering her expertise and what she was seeing in the dog in front of her, she was worried that there was a brain tumor and/or a problem at the brain stem. And so we found peace in the decision we had told the neurologist we were strongly leaning into, because our girl’s quality of life had gone from probably 95% two weeks ago to nearly zero as of yesterday, when she needed assistance even to stand up.

I received the email containing the neurologist’s full report of our visit only two hours after we returned home. I read it several times and kept hanging on the one line near the end:

“The Wells Family is very concerned about Roxie’s quality of life and do not wish to pursue extensive testing; they would like to spend some time with her and will likely elect for humane euthanasia with Dr. Withers tomorrow.”

That.

While agonizing and heart-shattering, we have done right by her.

I completely knew she was going to be Trouble with a Capital T from Day One; all the signs were there. On our way home from picking her up at eight weeks old, she bit into one of the glass beads on the bracelet I was wearing and broke it. We hadn’t even gotten her home for the first time yet.

She electrocuted herself before she was even a year old. I was playing with her, tossing the ball around in the basement. When I wasn’t looking, she forgot about the ball and bit right through a wire. I did everything you’re not supposed to do: I basically grabbed her and pried her mouth off of the live wire. It was terrifying, as was the visit to the emergency vet. She survived that, though.

She has been extremely annoying (and, on occasion, cheated death) by finding and consuming baking cocoa, assorted chocolates including Hanukkah gelt WITH the foil wrappers, candy canes, entire packs of gum, whole loaves of wheat bread, whole loaves of chocolate chip banana bread, glasses of milk and Coca Cola, unattended sandwiches, and many more things I can’t recall at the moment because my mind keeps going back to last year’s Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which she ate a little bit of every treat I put into gift bags for the boys EXCEPT for the Flaming Hot Cheetos and then got sick all over the house, leaving a mess that took Jim and me nearly an hour to clean up.

She also survived two adventures away from home (she snuck out by squeezing under the fence somehow), one of them ending up at the office of an apartment complex behind our subdivision. The handyman called my number and told me that he saw her running down the golf course, ears flapping in the wind. When she arrived at the office she had a great time saying hello to everyone there, and when I rushed over to pick her up, she didn’t care that I had arrived at all, soaking up the attention from everyone else.

Typical.

I was never her true favorite, which was a little frustrating considering that I was the one who wanted her the most. I was the one who was her primary caregiver. I spoiled her. I was the one who constantly humanized her but then when she got into trouble, rationalized that it was because she was “just a dog, after all.” She was not a cuddler like our Late, Great Bijoux. She loved, like she did everything else, on her own terms. Her love language where I was concerned consisted of following me everywhere, being in my general area but very rarely in my personal space. I couldn’t get up from the family room couch to go use the bathroom fifteen feet away without hearing her nose poke at the door. But there was no snuggling up to me on that couch: she usually sprawled out on the other end. Even when I let her sleep in our bed when Jim was on business trips, she stayed on his side of the bed, usually under the covers up to her neck with her head on his pillow.

She loved him, her Alpha, so much. And as much as he’s always been a tough-talker about the “damn dog”, he’s also well known for sweet talking her in funny voices and giving her so much love. I loved watching her nuzzle into his neck when he got home from work, sometimes gently smacking his face with her paws if she didn’t feel like he was being attentive enough. She would let him bite her ears when they were playing, and when he roughhoused with her she came back for more, constantly. I could stand on the back patio and call for her to come in from the yard a hundred times and she would act like she couldn’t hear a thing. Jim could stay seated in his chair and call her one time through the window screen and she’d come running. This loss is every bit as difficult for him as it is for me, I know it is.

And the boys. We had a family meeting on Sunday because we wanted to let J know that she might not still be here when he returns home for spring break. That was tough. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure the only two times my boys have ever seen me wail desperately were at the end of our two dogs’ lives. It was a rough discussion, and they are so saddened, too. J is at school but D was in the room with us at the end. The drive home was silent except for the crying.

I have cried more than I thought humanly possible this week. I spent a crazy amount of time sobbing into her fur because here at the end, she gave me the enormous gift of her presence in my personal space. I sat for hours with all thirty pounds of her molded against my chest and stomach as I petted her and whispered in her ear. Although the circumstances were highly abnormal and completely awful, I appreciated and will always remember all of the times I was able to hold her close over the past few days.

And even in the end, she was making me laugh. She refused to eat some of her favorite foods yesterday, gingerly sniffing the bowl of chicken and rice I made and then literally spitting out the rice while eating the chicken. Just a few days ago she would have fallen all over herself to get across the room and accept a corner of my PB&J sandwich but yesterday she turned her nose up at that, and seconds later happily munched on the Fritos I offered. She was continuing her tradition of “Her way or the highway”, and I was fine with it.

Sharing her adventures online has been a blessing. Where I felt a weird sense of panic when Bijoux died because I was worried I would forget the details of her life and ended up furiously typing out everything I could remember over the next week or two, it’s different with Roxie because I’ve been doing it all along, right here. I only have to click a few times to see some puppy pictures or relive the time she massacred Bobo the Blue Dog or the time I thought she killed a small animal but she really only killed a tomato or the time she put herself in “danger” by destroying my sister’s special holiday gift from Maker’s Mark or…well, you get the idea. (And she’s all over my Facebook and Instagram accounts, too.) Thanks to blogging and social media in general, today I have a little peace of mind where memories of Roxie are concerned.

She was loved. Well loved. I would give anything to have her back here, being a general pain in my butt, stealthily (and repeatedly) bypassing the cabinet “lock” to get into the kitchen trash, dumping my purse out all over the floor to find some gum when I leave the room for only two minutes, and even barking her fool head off. Since that can’t happen, I’ll just imagine her with a renewed quality of life, running to Bijoux on that Rainbow Bridge, ears flapping in the wind, so they can compare notes.

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Donna Day 2016

Today is the 5th annual Donna Day! Once again I am joining a huge group of bloggers and other supporters in promoting a special event meant to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

Donna Day is named for the daughter of my friend (and 2013 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO cast member) Sheila Quirke. Sheila blogs under the name Mary Tyler Mom and you can find her blog HERE. Sheila and her husband Jeremy lost Donna to pediatric cancer in 2009. Donna’s Cancer Story is documented in a series of thirty-two posts that Sheila wrote.

Sweet Donna. Photo courtesy of Sheila Quirke

Sweet Donna. Photo courtesy of Sheila Quirke

How is childhood cancer different from cancer in adults? Read THIS.

Pediatric cancer research is TRAGICALLY underfunded. More information on that HERE.

Donna’s Good Things, the org founded in Donna’s name by a friend of the family, is once again hosting a St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event to benefit pediatric cancer research at the Candelite in Chicago. The event will take place on March 19 from 2:00-4:00. Please consider attending if you’re local, and donating! More info on the event is HERE.

The Donna’s Good Things team has raised more than $373,470 for St. Baldricks in four years, which is completely amazing. Please consider adding to that total. Any donation, no matter the size, can help them reach their goal for this year. You all know that a lot of little things add up, so if you have five dollars to spare, please consider clicking over to the team page and click the green “Donate” button. If you want to get your head shaved as part of “Donna’s Good Things”, you can sign up there, too.

Thank you so much, and Happy Donna Day!

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Like Food, Drinks, Fun, and Shopping? Go To Rosemont!

If you know me at all, you know that I don’t hesitate when offered a chance to travel somewhere and spend a night in a hotel room, even if it’s close to my house. That’s why, when the Village of Rosemont in conjunction with the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, recently invited me to do just that, I responded within seconds of reading the email.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary accommodations, food, and drink during our overnighter. I’m sharing my own experience here, and all opinions and photos are mine.

Rosemont, which is only 2.5 square miles in size, is located about twenty-five minutes away from my house (and thirty minutes from Chicago’s city center), right outside of O’Hare airport. Even though it’s tiny in size, Rosemont is jam-packed with all kinds of things to do, places to stay, and things to eat, geared towards locals and travelers alike. The village, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, is home to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (which attracts more than 200 million guests to tradeshows, conventions, and public events each year), the Allstate Arena (which hosts concerts, sporting events, and family programming), and the Rosemont Theatre (which hosts more than 100 performances each year).

Rosemont sign

Our first stop was at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, where we checked in for the night. It was no surprise to me, having stayed at the downtown Loews twice before, that our room was beautiful and luxurious. Staying at a Loews hotel means you’re getting spoiled. Oops, I mean I’M getting spoiled.

Loews Hotel O'Hare Rosemont

The Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel has 556 guest rooms and its very own art gallery. It is also home to The Ashburn (named for Chicago’s first airport, the Ashburn Flying Field), a gastro-pub that features modern takes on classic dishes, micro brews, and signature cocktails like this Snowbelt, featuring Tito’s Vodka, Di Saronno, apple, and cinnamon. Okay, I admit it: I enjoyed two.

Snowbelt cocktail at the Ashburn

The Ashburn serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open until 1:00 a.m.

After hanging out in The Ashburn for a while, we boarded the hotel shuttle to check out MB Financial Park, which is the 200,000 square foot entertainment district in Rosemont. MB Financial Park is home to eight awesome restaurants (soon to be nine with the addition of Lettuce Entertain You’s Bub City), iFLY Indoor Skydiving, and Zanies Comedy Club as well as Big 10 and the Muvico Theater complex. The restaurants surround a 30,000 square foot Great Lawn, on which you’ll find concerts and festivals during the summer and ice skating, hockey, and tubing during the winter (“Frozemont” is going on through February 28).

Jim and I hit up MB Financial Park now and then when one of us is picking up the other at O’Hare. Popping in there for dinner on the way home from the airport (and waiting for rush hour traffic to subside) is a rather delicious idea, don’t you think? Hofbräuhaus Chicago and Fogo de Chao have been our go-to restaurants but after the whirlwind restaurant crawl we experienced, we have plans to change it up with ALL THE RESTAURANTS.

When our group was told that we’d be doing this restaurant crawl and trying food and drink at every single place in MB Financial Park, I was pretty excited. I’m glad I arrived hungry. Should’ve worn comfier pants though.

Our first stop was at Sugar Factory American Brasserie. Sugar Factory has an “MTV meets Willy Wonka” feel to its restaurant, chocolate lounge, retail store, and goblet/daiquiri bar. Those smoking goblets. OMG.

Lollipop Passion Goblet and Ocean Blue Goblet

On the way out we were given little candy buckets to fill. Best goody bag ever!

Sugar Factory

We enjoyed caipirhinas and mini sliders at Fogo de Chao, fish and chips (and some of us, beer) at Five Roses Pub, pretzels (and some of us, beer) at Hofbräuhaus Chicago, flatbreads, mac and cheese, and cocktails at King’s Bowl, Irish Soda and Peach Sangria at Park Tavern, guacamole made tableside and drinks at Adobe Gila’s, something else at Muvico Theater’s Bogart’s Bar and Grill…I mean, I can’t remember it all. I blame all the cocktail samples and my neglect in taking good notes.

Hofbrauhaus Chicago

Summary: EVERYTHING we ate and drank was delicious, no joke. I thought I’d never be hungry again…and then it was time for us to choose our evening entertainment. The choices? iFLY Indoor Parachuting, bowling at King’s, or a stand-up comedy show at Zanies. Jim and I choose stand-up comedy over just about anything, all the time, so Zanies was it!

Zanies Chicago

Every seat in the house at Rosemont’s Zanies is great, and the room was jam-packed when we were there. The headliner that night was James Davis, and he was a riot: we’d love to see him again! There is a two-item minimum for all guests, so I checked out the drink menu. I love a drink menu whose items are all named after people. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the drink named for Kathy Griffin. Twice. Ahem.

After all of that fun, we waddled (funny visual but SERIOUSLY) back to the hotel shuttle so we could get a good night’s sleep. And sleep we did! Did I mention how cozy the beds are at Loews hotels?

In the morning we enjoyed a superb breakfast buffet back at The Ashburn before heading out to the shuttle again, for the short ride to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

Breakfast Buffet at the Ashburn

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago is a two-level indoor shopping center that has more than 130 designer outlets. It’s anchored by Bloomingdales’s The Outlet Store, Forever 21, Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th. You can find world-class brands like Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci, Swarovski, and so many others (Banana Republic, The Art of Shaving, J. Crew, Burberry…I could name names all day!).

Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Full disclosure: I’m not a clothing designer brand person, so Jim and I “skimmed” the clothing stores and mostly visited other categories while at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Lolli & Pops is a neat candy store that carries a good variety of international brands, and my day was made when we found REAL Caramello bars made by the REAL Cadbury company, in England.

Lolli & Pops at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Le Creuset is a top-notch kitchen brand and I could swoon over their products all day long. We watched a stir fry demo that caused me to put their wok on my wish list.

Le Creuset at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Something I found extremely unique about the Fashion Outlets of Chicago is their Concierge Services, which is like a regular mall’s Information Booth on steroids. Here, the Concierge Services will answer questions of course, but also make restaurant reservations, check coats (and LUGGAGE for travelers who are burning up a long layover by shopping; by the way, there’s a Go Airport express shuttle running between this shopping center and the terminals at O’Hare!), and assist with other assorted needs to enhance the shopping experience of their visitors. Other travel services include printing boarding passes, exchange of currency, and translation services. Shoppers can even text their questions to 847-957-4600.

After a full evening of eating and drinking, a night of great sleep, and a morning of shopping, we left Rosemont rested but energized and planning our next visit with intention. I definitely recommend that you check out the village for yourself: there’s something for everyone!

Many, many thanks to the Village of Rosemont, MB Financial Park (and all the venues there), and The Fashion Outlets of Chicago for an incredible experience and honestly, one of the most well-planned media tours I’ve ever enjoyed.

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