Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Church

Please read this article by ex-Register columnist Ken Fuson, which is in DSM Magazine. Everyone is talking about it, and I hope you read it to see why.

I grew up in a church that taught me churches must have pews and closed communion. We must wear robes, have candles and boring, sad music. We have to turn away people that look weird or don't belong to the town. And, when they come in we all stare at them. We only let certain people in our club and you must never wear jeans or put the wrong flowers on the altar. (The best one was when a volunteer was turned away because they weren't a member).

Can you see why I turned away from Christianity - and religion? How could I be involved in such an elitist club that isn't open to those that are different. A club that doesn't love.

How ironic.

None of that is in the Bible. Nothing about how big or small a church should be. Nothing about how the music should be, what you should wear or who is allowed to worship. Funny, none of those things I taught had anything to do with God. Or love.

I'm proud to be a part of a church that has taught be what being a christian is truly about - God.

So, on most Sundays now (not just Christmas and Easter) I walk into a huge building holding the hand of the man I love, smiling ear to ear. I shake everyone's hand who will let me and almost belt out, "Good morning!" I smile at the passion each musician puts into their work. I clap loudly, I sing loudly and I listen intently. I cry at Pastor Mike's words. God moves me.

Praise God for a church that has touched thousands of lives of people who had either given up or never given Him a chance.

That's what a church should be about. Praise God.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

We're going green!

Ryan insisted on that title. =]

We aren't talking about the laundry list of ways we're going green in our new home (which we move into May 13). Nor the things we did this earth day to show our home how much we love it. We're talking about dinner.

I may have mentioned earlier that sometimes we just want a dinner of fruits and vegetables. We had one of those nights recently as Ryan gave up red meat and pork for lent. I gave up snacking, so we made a meal of healthy snacks. After filling our plates, we realized everything was green.

Avacados, pears, asparagus, star fruit and broccoli.

We're nerds. We know.

Speaking of lent, we're bummed that we had our last fish fry of the year last week. This year, we tried a new church near Drake because we heard a woman cooked authentic cajun. We didn't exactly find that, but what we did find was amazing. We'll return. =] It's nice that we're also supporting the Drake community!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Use, Reuse, Reuse, Reuse, Reuse... Recycle

I grabbed some Starbucks coffee for Breakfast Day at work and noticed this writing on my paper bag.

If you can't read it, basically it encourages its recipient to reuse it over and over again. Kudos, Starbucks! I will do just that! I carefully folded up my bag and took it home in hopes of using it again sometime soon.

That time has yet to come since last Friday. So I could use your help. Really, I just don't have that much to transport at this time. My hope is that each time I use the bag I take a picture and post it. I emphasize the word hope.

How would you use your Starbucks bag? What do you think I should use mine for?

Here is a picture from its first use. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Commercials? I like the half-time shows.

A week ago folks all over the U.S. were fussing over Super Bowl commercials once again. I always like the half-time show, however. I mean, how awesome was it when Prince made it rain for 'Purple Rain' in 2007 or Michael Jackson stared the crowd down while they went wild for two minutes in 1993. Or perhaps you loved the Who's stage or Janet's boob?

Ryan's favorite, for example, was the 2008 performance of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. My mom's, without a doubt, would be Prince.

What was your favorite? I know Prince and the Who stick out in my mind. Or did you like one of the huge spectacles involving Aerosmith, NSYNC, Brittany Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly - yes, all in one show.

Still need help remembering? Here's a top ten list from, EW or Billboard.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why we should love winter!

While you’re trudging through ankle deep snow in soaking wet jeans, looking down to avoid the stinging blizzard snow conditions one often thinks – Why do I live in Iowa? This time of year a lot of folks, while melting the frozen mucus in their noses become fed up and claim to all around them – “I’m moving!” This happens to every Iowan at some point in the winter months - usually when we melt the last storm’s snow just to hear a fresh coat will be here by morning.

That’s why, each year, I try to reflect why I love it here. The Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau puts out a huge list of reasons why each year – showing us where Iowa and Des Moines rank in the nation. For example, apparently Des Moines is the #1 place in the nation to raise a family (Forbes). Check out the full list here. We also like to volunteer and it’s the best place to hold a career. Wow. We rock!

If those numbers don’t impress you, perhaps I can influence you. We can brag about our awesome state fair, our farmers who feed you or our cornfed athletes with a stellar work ethic to boot. If you have enough ambition you can see what God’s country is all about by watching the fall colors turn in Madison county or canoeing the crystal clear Upper Iowa river while eagles swarm your heads and fish swim away from your boat.

While winter is worth these other amazing seasons, we still openly loathe it. Why? Let’s try embracing winter. Here’s why:
-Snow angels. Leaf angels in the fall are messy and the occasional bug finds his way into your hair and you find yourself picking leaves out of your clothes. Making snow angels is peaceful and beautiful.
-Cleanup for the OCD. I have this strange fascination with kicking the snow from behind my tires – and everyone else’s in the parking lot. Some people like cleaning off cars as well because they may have OCD tendencies. It’s a gift from mother nature to those with disorders.
-Free car wash. Our cars get so dirty in the winter. Personally, I never take it in to get it washed because mother nature is going to take care of that for me in a few days.
-Keeping pop cold. On Christmas we used to put our little glass bottles of Coca-Cola in the snow. The result is that they get little frozen chunks in them like coke ice cubes. It’s delicious.
-Fireplaces, snuggies, cocoa and a book. Seriously, when else can you do this?
-Forts and snowmen. This one is more for the kids, but adults find ways to enjoy their snow piles. This gentleman in Des Moines built a fort to block the drifts from getting into his driveway. Don’t tell me that doesn’t look like fun. 
-Crime solvers. Snow often helps solve crimes mainly because of the handy footprints left behind. In my opinion, it also does a good job preventing them because who wants to go to all that work in the cold?!
- Silence. Not only does the snow deafen sound, but the lack of people also prove for a solemn environment – for those who enjoy it quiet. =]
- Beauty. If you disagree with me on this let me scour your computer for those pictures of pretty snow or ice on your trees, cherries or fences. Bet I could find some.

So lock up your southern winter homes and flee back to Iowa for some seasonal fun! Just beware the cabin fever…

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A happy life is an organized life

I love it when the little things in life really tickle my fancy. For example, I absolutely love to kick the dirty snow from behind my tires. Especially when it comes off in one piece! I especially love it when I get a thrill out of things that some people would consider chores.

One thing I got out of the Register divorce was a filing cabinet I purchased at a fair $10 price. We promptly splurged on colored filing folders.

I've been putting off filling my papers away in the four-drawer high structure. Instead, tiny piles of bills, receipts, and misc. items have been popping up all over the apartment. I wish I had taken a "before" picture. FINALLY, when I had my last chance this weekend I started filing away Sunday night. It helped that I had one of my best birthday presents ever - a labelmaker - from one miss Peterson.

I won't bore you (any further), but for me the results of this process was one cheap thrill. I went around the apartment grabbing coupons and doctor bills saying, "What will we do with this, Ryan? Oh, I know... we'll put it right here under Medical, then bills." He did the same with our taxes. Complete and total nerd-dome achieved.

How boring, I know. A picture of my bliss... organization!

If you've stayed with me this long, I'll treat you with one last thing. When Ryan went out to dad's to ask his blessing he brought wood to cut to make me a shelf for my cookbooks. Well, he's finished it and here are some pictures of it! 

He made it for me because:
A. He's wonderful.
2. It's cooler to have handmade stuff.
Tres. It serves as a sentimental reminder of our engagement,
IV. We wanted it a certain way and we weren't going to find it anywhere soon.

                                           Happy Ryan                                Finished product. =]

Tune in next week when we review the progress of paint drying! 

No, but seriously next post might be about why living in Iowa - even during Snowmageddon isn't so bad!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disney's Fantasia and my unsolicited opinion

Ryan and I watched both Fantasia and its 2000 sibling this week per our Netflix account. I've developed some strong opinions about both and encourage everyone to watch them. They are artistry masterpieces. The music and beautiful animation can do wonders for the mind.

As a kid I remember watching Fantasia and being entranced with the concept. It was beautiful and frankly, very scary. A lot of the animation has evil and devilish themes. Like this guy:

Also, the first one was made in the 1940's, so there are a lot of old Disney themes. I won't come out and just say it, but a great example is below of the centaurs that were matched with their colored counterpart. Ask me if you don't understand.

Of course, the infamous scene with Mickey trying out the sorcerer's hat is so good Disney used it in both films.

I liked 2000 more for a few obvious reasons: It was more to-date/modern, it showcased the technological advancements we've made to create quality animation and it wasn't as dark. They used different celebrities like Steve Martin, Bette Midler and Angela Lansbury to introduce the pieces instead of the same composer who I grew weary of in Fantasia. The stories were more interesting and I laughed - a lot. In fact, they were happy and uplifting. The themes weren't revolved around nymphs and centaurs but rather more definite characters like the Steadfast Tin Soldier. To me the centaurs and flying horses were more decoys than actual characters making it hard to sympathize with them.

I was going to write about my favorite piece out of the two films - the Gershwin piece illustrated by Al Herschfeld-inspired animation (above). However, after I've watched the film I forgot how great pieces like the flamingos with a yo-yo scene is as well as Donald marching animals onto the Ark to Pomp and Circumstance. My only beef with Fantasia 2000 is that it's too short - but it surely makes up for how LONG Fantasia was.

But, that's all just my opinion. Please, please go watch both and let me know your thoughts. Tell me which is your favorite piece. What bored you to tears? What scared you? What exercised your mind?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Knitting a Bulldog Scarf

I've been working on a fancy Drake Bulldog-themed scarf. If you only know how to knit stitch, or both knit and perl stitch, there's a way to make a scarf pattern look more complicated than it really is. It's better to use three colors, but in this case I used two for Drake's school colors. I think four would be too much, but you could make it work.

I like using the ribbing stitch - which is knit one, perl one - across the row on all rows. You can do whatever stitch you like (garter, etc.), but I think this one looks best with the yarn changes, which I'll explain later.

Simply put, you make every block of yarn a random number of rows. You can see below I cast on 15 stitches of blue, then tied on white yarn after I decided to. Again, this scarf is a random pattern that looks really nice displaying whatever two or three colors you choose.

See fiance in background.

I like to knit a few small rows, a few big. Again, it's all random but be sure to switch off the colors evenly - especially when you're using three colors.
You can see me tying on the blue yarn to a finished white yarn row. Here, you can start to see what I meant earlier about the ribbing looking better for this pattern. If you did a garter stitch, the transition would show in the pattern more prominently. This white piece you'll cut off the ball of yarn, leaving it hang. Later you will tie and sew those ends in to hide them.

Here, I'm simply knitting the white yarn to the blue. You knit it like you would any other row.

Here's what the finished pattern should look like. Notice I've made each row's width completely random. Some are only one or two rows long, others are big blocks. This is not a finished product, though. I still have to sew the ends in.

In the next post I'll show you how to sew the ends in, and where I'll be wearing my scarf.

Do you want to know how to knit something specific? Let me know. Happy knitting!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


So remember when I was talking about those exciting changes for 2011? Well, this is one of them.

January 14, 2011, Ryan Smith asked for my hand in marriage. That's after, of course, he drove to my dad's that morning and asked for his blessing. :-)

So everyone wants to know the story of how he did it. Here it is with half the details you probably don't care about:
Earlier in the week I asked him if we could have a date night Friday - worked out for him. I wanted to try this restaurant my mom did a blog post about for @chefhermansfood.  It's called Zingaro 515 and it's in the Sheuerman House on Woodland Ave. in Sherman Hills. We picked up a bottle of wine beforehand, since it's BYOB, and had an amazing meal! We had salad/soup, trout, a cheese flight and dessert. At one point, Ryan closed his eyes to have a moment alone with the cheese. It was an exceptional dinner and not just because of the meal. We had a great time together as always.

Meanwhile, in the piano parlor a Drake student named Anna was playing the piano. It really added to the atmosphere that included candlelight in a Queen Anne style house. Ryan got up to go to the bathroom a few times, once to put the ring in his pocket. Then, I got in line for the bathroom and ended up chatting with the pianist Anna. I got her story, of course, being a former journalist.

I told Ryan about talking to her so he said, "I want to go see the pianist." We went into the piano parlor and I put my purse on the floor and said, "I want to dance." We hugged and kissed and I could tell Ryan was anxious or nervous... I just wanted to dance. :-) I said, "Thank you for such a wonderful night," and he replied with. "Well, there's one more thing."

He got on one knee and said, "Niki. Will you marry me?" I said yes through tears and he apparently didn't hear because he stood up and said, "Sooo.... is that a yes?"

The pianist finished her song, "All or Nothing At All" by Frank Sinatra and gave me a hug. She told us she was happy to have shared that moment with us. We were too.

It was the perfect place for us to get engaged that really created a unique moment which I keep replaying in my head over and over. This won't turn into a wedding blog, but I'll share interesting things I encounter or find along the way for sure. I'm just glad no one else found out what a catch I had. I can't wait to be his wife!

Our more successful picture of us outside Zingaro. You can sort of see the house behind us:

Here is our hilarious first attempt at a picture of us outside Zingaro:

AND, the RING! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We need some hope and "lolz"

This is my newest edition of "Youtube of the Week." I compiled it after bawling to Obama's speech at the Tucson Memorial and learning of an unfortunate incident involving Lemmings and Disney...


We'll start with an AWESOME version of U2's "One" that includes Mary J. Blige. If you like U2, you'll like this... if you don't, you'll love it. :-) And special thanks to Coach G for this one. I've been listening to it non-stop. If we were kids again, my sister would have destroyed the CD by now.

Now, for a break from all the serious. Comedy that never fails: Jim Carrey in a tutu.

Need to be reminded of peace? Hear what Lennon has to say about it in "I Met the Walrus." In 1969, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan snuck into Lennon's hotel room and got this interview. Watch it paired with Academy Award-winning animation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Youtube of the Week (ish)

For about four years now (holy crap) I've been sending out this weekly email featuring the latest interesting or funny Youtube videos. They are chosen at my discretion and range anywhere from my favorite music video at that time, to a serious sports montage all the way to cat videos - of course.

My list has grown to well over 50 of my closest friends. My boyfriend was on the list before I even met him. A friend suggested I put his email on the list because she was forwarding them to him anyway. A week later, we met and he got to know, and eventually love, me through those emails. It sounds hokey, but I'm glad I stuck with them otherwise maybe he would have lost interest in me... we'll never know. :-)

Regardless, here's an edition. I used to send it weekly, religiously. I've dwindled to bi-weekly and even sometimes monthly. I don't think I'll ever stop, though.

Let me know if you have any questions about how I pick them, why, etc. I love submissions so let me know what your favorites are!

I've missed the boat on doing a "Best of 2010" edition so I'll just post my post-holiday edition below.

Hope you had a great holiday! At my dad's Christmas, I laughed hysterically at this commercial:

ISU didn't make a bowl game this year, and Chris Hassel decided to tell us in a unique way how the fans feel about that.

This one is longer, and not on Youtube, but I've watched it four times now and still love it. These New York men randomly started receiving hundreds of letters to Santa and decided last minute to fulfill them...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011, I'm in heaven!

It's not that I hated 2010. It was fun, too.

Although, I can't help but get over-excited about a few changes for me in 2011. First, I start a new job on Jan. 3. It will be full of learning for me in 2011 and I can't wait to get started!

Second, I'll be moving - a couple of times. But hopefully they may be the last times. I'm moving into Ryan's apartment in March when my lease runs out.. then a few months or so after that, we'll be buying a house!

On top of that many of my bestest friends are getting married, a few more trips to Kansas City are in order, another fishing trip to northeast Iowa, another state fair and another Drake basketball season.

Those things are amazing, but what really excites me is what I don't know about 2011. I can't wait for the things I didn't expect.

Bring it on, new year!

What are you looking forward to? Are you happy to say goodbye to 2010, or perhaps sad? Do you not have any plans at all - because that's even more excited. Just think about where you were this time last year... how have things changed?