Thursday, July 31

Des Moines Recap

At the beginning of this summer, I wrote a post about 15 Things I Can't Wait to Do in Des Moines! Let's see how I've done so far...

  • See my mom more often -- We'll be sharing an apartment when she's in town, so I'll get to see her at least a week a month, maybe more!
CHECK! I've spent about half the summer sharing the same bed as my mom and the other half working for her. I know we missed each other over this last year, but we've seen plenty of each other over the summer!

  • See J & Leif more often -- This is a given, haha.
CHECK! I've spent as much time with J and my kitties as I could, given that J's visited me several times in Des Moines and therefore I couldn't see the kitties on those weekends. I went over a month without seeing the cats, which was awful. But luckily, I've gotten to see J almost every week this summer!

  • See my friends in the Des Moines area -- I have so many friends still in the area, and hopefully I'll be able to visit with them all at least once before I move back in the fall!
CHECK! Not only have I seen most of my high school friends this summer, but I've also gotten to see a bunch of my college friends - and even made a few new friends!

  • Work at the best law firm in Iowa everrr: Fiedler & Timmer, PLLC! Full of smart, strong, ambitious people who I love and respect, fighting the good fight!
CHECK! Psh, this was an easy one! :)

  • A Dong's -- Easily the best Vietnamese in the state, and I'll be live about 2 minutes away. Dangerous...
CHECK! I think I've eaten at A Dong's more than any other restaurant in Des Moines, and I have no regrets abut that. I also discovered I love green tea bubble tea, so that was a huge win for me!

  • Fong's Pizza -- All day, every day.
CHECK! Well, I've been there once so far. Maybe I'll have to go another time this summer?

  • Visit the Blank Park Zoo -- Assuming I have time, this would be SUCH a great summer activity!
I haven't done this yet, but I'm hoping I'll be able to go this week! Who wants to go with me?!

  • Go to Zombie Burger for the first time -- Yeah, I've lived in the area for years since it opened and never eaten there. We're gonna fix that this summer.
CHECK! J and I have been to Zombie Burger twice, and both times have been interesting. The first burger I got wasn't my favorite, but I think I just made a poor menu choice. The second time I went, it was a total knockout win!

  • Walk around the East Village & try not to spend all my money - especially at Hill Vintage and Raygun. Eeek!
CHECK! Well, I haven't actually been shopping in the East Village... so maybe that makes it even more of a win? I'd still like to go to Hill Vintage before I leave!

  • Visit the Art Center -- I haven't been there in years, and there's nothing like art to put your life in perspective.
I haven't been here yet either! Anyone want to spend an evening or weekend day at the Art Center with me? :)

  • Sakari Sushi Lounge -- I love this place in Des Moines! You can always count on girls in tight, leopard print dresses for people-watching and cheap, delicious sushi.
Well, I haven't actually been here either... but given how many times J and I have been to Oyama sushi in Iowa City, I think I can mark Sakari off the list, at least in spirit!

  • The Des Moines Farmer's Market -- I'm going to be living for half the summer about a block from Court Ave, so this is my #1 priority every Saturday. You haven't seen a farmer's market until you've seen the one in Des Moines. Plus, Saloo's Indian makes the best vegetable cutlets in the world. Proven fact.
CHECK! Oh boy, have I checked this off the list! I've gone at least three times and loved every minute of it, no matter how hot it was outside!

  • The Royal Mile & The Hessen Haus -- Strongbow on tap & themed bars. Yep.
CHECK! I've been to the Hessan Haus several times, and I have plans to go to the Royal Mile this weekend! :)

  • Van Dee's Ice Cream -- I grew up on this ice cream, and I've definitely been in withdrawal!
CHECK! I've been to Van Dee's twice this summer and I'm more than happy to go back! Anyone feel like more ice cream?!

  • Start training -- I told J he should train for a half marathon, which turned into him refusing unless I did it too. So I'm going to start running seriously again this summer. Given that I haven't run further than 5 miles in one time, this is going to be an interesting summer, haha.
CHECK! Well, I didn't really run, but I have been going to Power Life Yoga pretty consistantly! I've been going at least twice a week for a few weeks now, and doing yoga in my apartment in my spare time. I feel really good and healthy, even if I've been eating out more than I should!


So, what do I still need to do? Visit the Blank Park Zoo and the Art Center! 

Besides those things from my list, I still want to go to the Zoo Brew (which, technically, would check that AND visiting the Blank Park Zoo off my list) check out Tacopocolypse, and go to Adventureland! I'm already trying to make plans to go to Adventureland next week and maybe go to the Zoo Brew after, so that's a start! Honestly, those five little things sound really do-able in the next two weeks, right?

Who volunteers to go with me? :)

Thursday, July 17

Life Lately {vol. 25 - engagement edition}

After I got back from NELA, I had to wait an entire week to see J again... which meant that I hadn't seen him for almost a month before he drove up Thursday afternoon!

We did a few errands Thursday before our early morning flight Friday, and goofed around in a CVS because that's just who we are, haha!

Friday was the 4th of July, so it was a little harder to go to sleep Thursday night than I had planned on. It turns out, J is OBSESSED with fireworks. I've been with him for over 3 1/2 years and just found this out, haha.

We had a hell of a time trying to fly to Hilton Head to see my family. Our first flight got delayed again and again, and we were originally only supposed to have a 30-minute layover in Atlanta anyway... so we definitely missed our flights. We ended up getting a plane to Dallas and then to Savannah, so we made it. Eventually.

Laying out on my parents' deck, watching and hearing and feeling the rain fall is one of the most beautiful, relaxing experiences. I could sit out there for hours (and clearly so could J).

Part of visiting my family means seeing my puppy again! We got Kichon when I was 14 or 15, so she's almost 10 years old (yikes, where does the time go?). She's my mom's dog, through and through, but she's sweet to just about everyone.

On Saturday, we all went down to the beach to play in the water! J and Chase and I played catch for a while before Chase went to hang out with friends. J and I spent 4 more hours swimming (and getting terribly burnt). Whoops!

On Monday, we rented a boat and spent a few hours watching dolphin, drinking a little, and relaxing on the ocean!

My "little" brother is such a hunk! He's a pretty amazing kid. :)

J spent the entire day pretending he was a bro at the Hamptons or something, haha.

We stopped for lunch at the site of an old plantation. I'm always conflicted, because so many of these areas are gorgeous, but I think it's easy to forget the kinds of horrors that happened. Let's just say this: only white people have plantation weddings, because good things on plantations only happened to white people. Generally speaking, no person of color looks back on plantations fondly...

The original plantation was burnt to the ground. I didn't read the plaque that said how, but given the history of the region, I'd assume us Yankees had something to do with it...

We spent a day shopping at the outlet mall, and I found this INCREDIBLE dress. It was over $300 and I had nowhere to wear it, but boy did I feel beautiful - like Kate Winslet in Titanic!

I love this kid so much. He is THE cutest. :)

Aren't my parents the cutest?! The sun was in my dad's eyes a little bit, but I still love this picture of them. :)

Living in Hilton Head is basically living in paradise.

Afterwards, my parents and J and I headed to the Farmer's Market!

These tomatoes though. *heart eyes*

*more heart eyes because obviously*

We took a break from the market with some drinks on the patio of this wine bar! It was such a cool place and they had a really interesting drink selection.

I asked for a framboise, but they mistakenly gave me this other kind of raspberry beer. But I drank it all anyway. Because new experiences!

Something very, very special may have happened that night... :) We had one more day to relax, and then Saturday we drove to Savannah with my parents to go to the airport.

While on the plane, I realized that I've flown every weekend for 4 straight weeks. The good news is, it's a great time to read. I finally finished my book on Catherine the Great!

On Sunday, we finally announced that we were engaged!!! He asked me on Thursday night after talking about it for 3 years, haha. The answer was a no brainer, of course.

I call this one, "J somehow looks like an adorable porcupine."

This is a better shot of my engagement ring! It's definitely unique and interesting and so me! :)

J had to leave Sunday night, and Monday, it was back to work and the daily grind for me! Though to be honest, it's a lot easier to come to work every day when you love what you do.

My new favorite yogurt - SO good!

I made homemade tom yum soup Monday night, because it's me and it's delicious!

Tuesday evening, I went out with Ciera, Lauren, and Liz - three of my best friends from high school! I haven't seen Ciera or Lauren since Christmas, so the three of us had a great time catching each other up with our lives!

It's been a really, really crazy few weeks! I feel like June flew by, and July's not staying any longer... Where did this summer go?!

It's also been a little surreal to finally be engaged to J. Later that night, we sat down on the bed and there was a pause. "I don't feel any different," he laughed. And to be honest, I didn't either. And I don't. I've known I was going to marry this guy after 6 months of dating. We've discussed marriage plenty of times over the last 3 1/2 years. This certainly didn't come out of nowhere, haha.

What feels surreal about the whole thing is that I feel like I should be freaking out and pinning wedding stuff like a maniac and buying a bridal binder or whatever they have... and I just feel really calm and happy and content. I mean, I'm still pinning wedding stuff here and there (and now I can finally watch "Say Yes to the Dress" with a little less guilt in my heart), but I just want to enjoy this time with J and my family and friends. I don't want to plan anything right now.

Maybe it doesn't feel that different for me because we're not getting married for a few years still, and J and I were already pretty comfortable with the idea of engagement/marriage. And maybe because the important part for me is being in a committed, healthy relationship - not necessarily the bling or the title.

I guess there's still a few years for the bridezilla (and groomzilla) to come out in full force. ;)

Monday, July 14

12x12: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great
Robert K. Massie

I got this book for Christmas from my mom. I really love books about history and monarchies, though I usually stick with Tudor history! I was really excited to read this, but it was really, really long so I hadn't gotten the chance during my 1L year.

What I Loved:

  • It was incredibly well-written! I think we all think of biographies as tedious, boring, and dry - well, not this book. It's surprisingly easy to read and stay interested.
  • The book gives a great, in-depth look at Catherine's life. The author spent 8 years studying Catherine; reading her letters, reading her notes, reading the letters and diaries of those who were close or in contact with her. It seems crazy that we could know this much about a person who lived in the 1700's just from letters!
  • Catherine was an incredibly interesting woman. She basically stole the throne from her creepy, animal-abusing husband who no one liked, but she was such a better option than him, no one really cared that she wasn't from the right bloodline. She also had her children taken from her early on so she never got to bond with them - and then did the same exact thing to her son's wife years later. It seems crazy, but it also says a lot about abuse...
  • It made me want to go to Russia, which is a feeling I have never experienced before.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

  • Everything is tied together, which isn't necessarily a bad thing... You can't read about Catherine the Great without understanding how the American Revolution or the political uprisings in France affected Russia. What this means is that a good chunk of the book isn't directly about Catherine.
  • People and events are sometimes mentioned in chapters before they actually show up in the book. The book is generally organized by topic, not necessarily by timeline. For example, the book mentions Paul, Catherine's firstborn son, and his marriage before it ever happens because it has something to do with marriage proposals. It's a passing mention, which is fully explained later in the book, but it does get confusing once in a while.

Would I Recommend This Book?

  • Absolutely. If you're interested in politics, philosophy, art, or history, this is a perfect book for you. The author has a few more books on other Russian monarchs, which I will be reading ASAP!

What's Left on My List?
  • Women, Food, and God
  • Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling
  • Dating Jesus
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales (I actually lost my copy on the move to Des Moines - no idea how, so this is on hold for the time being, even though I only have 1/5 of the book to go!)

Phew! This is going to be a crazy next few months while I try to finish these books. I have a book for my friend Macy's book club that I have to/get to read this week, so I'll be taking a brief intermission on my project. I go back to school in August, which is coming up way faster that I intended. At least I only have 3-4 books left!