Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Here we go again!

Friends, I've gone a solid 32 days without a challenge, and I feel like something is missing from my life. I miss have something to work on or work towards. To fill that hole, I decided I'm going to challenge myself to be more adventurous this calendar year. I don't necessarily mean doing crazy stunts like skydiving. I just mean doing things I wouldn't normally do and expanding my horizons a bit. Having fun is just one excellent benefit of this plan! I also hope to either make some new friends or become closer to the ones I already have. Since I didn't officially decide this plan was going to take place until today, I really didn't do anything to exciting during the month of January aside from going tubing at Navarino Slopes with my friends Laura and Kyle and attending the Appleton Ice Dogs "Mustache Night". Yes, that's correct. "Mustache Night". We got a dollar off our admission tickets to the hockey game if we wore a mustache. I really feel like I rocked the facial hair, and to be completely honest I wore that mustache the whole entire game and the whole way home, too. So if anyone is up for an adventure, let me know. Christina talked me into taking rock climbing lessons with her, so I'm super excited about that and can't wait to be a master rock-er.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The year of challenges has ended!

I'm not kidding when I say I just can't believe this year is over! It does not feel like I have completed twelve challenges, but I have. I'll recap December's challenge, and then we can reminisce about past challenges.

In December I decided to enter a sweepstakes or contest every day. I happen to be one of the unluckiest people around, so I figured if I entered a huge number of contests I would be sure to win something, right? Not really. In total, I entered eighty-one contests. 81!!!!!!!!! That's huge! And I won nothing!!!!! I will acknowledge that some of the things I entered have not drawn the winner yet, so there's still a chance, but I think it's a safe bet I didn't win anything. I will share with you that as a result of one of the contests I entered at the Fox River Mall I had a woman call and say I had won 4 round-trip air tickets to anywhere in the world...only to find out 15 minutes into the phone call that I had to go to Wisconsin Dells and listen to a 2 hour time-share presentation. I said "Thanks but no thanks." If I win something, I want to win it, not have to work to get it. Then she told me I didn't actually was a promotion and as such, I had to come to the presentation. Nope.

I will also share that I kinda did win something this month, but it wasn't a result of entering endless sweepstakes. Our weekly online newsletter at work lists 2 employee numbers each week, and if yours is listed, you win a prize. My number was listed last week. I was so convinced I had won a new convertible...I just knew that's what the prize would be. Turns out, the prize was an Aurora Family Cookbook. Sigh.

Now, let's review the year's challenges. Here they are:
January: Purchase only American-made products
February: Write and send one complimentary letter per day
March: Spend 15 minutes a day revising my book
April: Walk every street in Two Rivers
May: Eat the recommended number of fruits and veggies every day
June: Find a geocache in every county in Wisconsin
July: Finish my half-done house projects
August: Ride 250 miles on my bike
September: Eat vegetarian
October: Visit every museum in Manitowoc County
November: Watch every movie that won Best Picture Oscar
December: Enter one sweepstakes per day

My favorite challenge: Tie between riding my bike 250 miles and finding a geocache in every county. Both of these challenges were a lot of fun and I enjoyed them both a lot!
Least favorite challenge: Eating vegetarian. I absolutely hated hated hated this month. I could never ever be a vegetarian. It's too hard!
Hardest challenge: Buying American. It takes a huge amount of dedication, and there are certain products that just simply are not made in America. But I also learned that if you look hard enough, there are a lot of things that surprisingly ARE made right here.
Easiest challenge: Visit every museum in Manitowoc County. No one better tell my dad this, but I actually enjoy going to museums now that I'm an adult.

And now to address the question of what will happen in this coming year. I had thought to continue the challenges. I very much enjoy having something new to work at each month, but to be honest, it's been tough coming up with 12 challenges that fit my picky criteria. I also think the charm and unique-ness has worn off, so I will be retiring my year of challenges, effective immediately. I've had several people suggest other types of year-long challenges, but I think I'm just done with it all. I've really enjoyed everyone's feedback, I've enjoyed sharing my challenges and the results with you, and I've enjoyed dedicating myself to something new every thirty days. I'm very content to put this segment of my life to bed :) With that being said, in lieu of making a New Years resolution, I chose to call mine a challenge...I want to get my book published this year. I will be working all year towards that goal. A doctor at work asked my yesterday what my resolution was, and I just decided that I like the word "challenge" better than "resolution". Being as competitive as I am, "challenge" gets me fired up a lot more than "resolution". So I guess you could say I'm not completely giving up challenges in my life...just moving onto a larger, more time-consuming one.

Thank you again for following me for the past year. I hope I added a little humor to your day, and maybe I even inspired you to do something new or different or to challenge yourself. It really did warm my heart each time you posted a comment or asked what my challenge was when we crossed paths because it showed me that you, my friend, were interested in me. I appreciate you.

Many of life's failures are people who did nor realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ---Thomas Edison

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My final challenge of the year...

November has drawn to a close, and as with several of my challenges, I really lost steam as the month wore on. I just can't spend all day sitting in front of the tv watching movies, although I tried. I watched a grand total of 9 movies this month. That makes it sound like I wasn't even trying. I think maybe if I had jumped around a little more regarding the year the movies were made I might have been more interested, but I really tried to watch them in order from oldest to newest. Honestly, some of the old ones just aren't interesting. I have had the movie All the King's Men in my house for about 2 weeks and I just can't make it past about 30 minutes into the movie. The movies I've watched since my last post are as follows:

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
A movie about a love triangle in the circus environment. I would say roughly 50% of the movie is just plain circus, so if you want to see the circus but don't want to leave your own home, just rent this movie. I think this was filmed in "technicolor" because the colors are so unbelievably vibrant. Or it could just be that my eyes were used to watching black and white movies. Overall, it's an okay movie but it's long, at almost 3 hours. My rating: **

Gandi (1982)
I will admit I didn't know much about Gandi, but now I feel like I know more than enough. The beginning started off really interesting, then it kinda dragged. This was also a long movie, and Ben Kingsley makes a very convincing Indian. My rating: **

This would be a fun challenge to take on over the course of your lifetime, but I found that (especially in recent years) the movie that wins best picture Oscar might be just plain weird. I tried watching American Beauty (1999) and turned that off before I was 10 minutes into it. I hate movies that are weird or have hidden meanings or that make you think. When I watch a movie I simply want to be entertained. Best of luck to you if you ever try this challenge- and I would recommend the library for renting these movies because the majority of them are not to be found in stores!

Now, on to this month's challenge:
I'm always complaining that I never win anything. Case in point: When I was little my mom worked at the Kimberly K-mart. One summer they had their first and only company picnic. All of the kids- and I mean ALL OF THE KIDS- got a really cool prize from the store. My sister got a Ken doll. I was the last kid chosen. By the time they got to me, they ran out of prizes. There was nothing left for me. To try to make it up to me, they gave me 2 boxes of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. When you're 8 years old, that doesn't really compare to a Ken doll. So since then I've always been really bitter about contests of any kind, because I just never win. In an attempt to change my luck, I have decided to enter into at least one contest per day this month. I even set up a brand-new email address to catch all of the junk mail that will no doubt coincide with my registrations:

Today I registered to win 14 box seats at Lambeau Field from Shopko. If anyone out there hears of a contest I can register in, please send me a link or an email or something so I can maximize my chances for winning. Certainly, if I win anything you will all know!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Movie update...

I've really been trying hard to watch as many movies as's an update. You know, if you can't come up with a movie to watch, I'd recommend you just read my list. It'll save you a lot of time at the Redbox. Although most of these movies you can't even find at Redbox, and maybe not even at the video store. My best source has been the library. You can't beat a free movie rental! I have been trying to watch them in order but I've had to order some from other libraries and sometimes I just had to skip ahead because I was at a friend's house or my parent's house and I didn't have an old movie with me.

The Best Years of our Lives, 1946
This is a nice story about 3 men returning home from World War II. It follows the struggles they have reintegrating into their families and society. Funny, sweet, and at times sad, although it had a happy ending. It seems to me like at this time, Hollywood was beginning to tackle awkward or uncomfortable topics, but was still trying to gloss over them at the same time, if that makes sense. Lots of good looking men in this movie. My rating: ***

Gentleman's Agreement, 1947
A reporter decides to go undercover as a Jewish man, to write a story about the discrimination Jews faced in post-World War II America. Another example of Hollywood tackling a touchy subject. Nice movie, and Gregory Peck (the leading actor) is steamy! My rating: ***

An American in Paris, 1951
Featuring Gene Kelly, this movie was part movie, part musical. Gene Kelly has a wonderful voice and is a phenomenal dancer, so there was a lot of both of those in the story. He's an ex-GI living in Paris and falls in love with a woman who's engaged to someone else. Decent movie, stunning colors (I had been watching all black and white movies up till now!) The 15 minute long song and dance feature at the end was very odd. Overall, I've seen better. My rating: **

Million Dollar Baby, 2004
Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood star. They train Hilary Swank to be an award-winning boxer. I never saw this movie because I don't like Hilary Swank, and I still don't. She's ugly in this movie and has a terrible Oklahoma-redneck accent. I have to say, though, it was a good story and I was shocked at what happened at her last fight. I truly didn't see it coming. I would recommend this movie, as long as you can get over Hilary Swank's accent and Clint Eastwood's rougher-than-gravel voice. My rating: ****

The King's Speech, 2010
I saw this in theaters and loved it, and I still love it after seeing it for a second time. Colin Firth does a phenomenal job as the stuttering King George VI in pre-World War II England. It's heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time to see his struggles and ultimate triumph. My rating *****

Friday, November 4, 2011

November's Challenge:

My challenge for this wonderful month is to watch every movie that has won a Best Picture Oscar. My good friend Laura Lobner and I attempted this while we were in high school, starting at the very beginning (1928). We made it through 1943. The first few movies were hilarious (and super boring) because no one quite had the idea of what a movie should be, so they had no plot. There was also no speaking. Within a few years, they had progressed to words written on the screen, and plots were starting to develop. I will honestly say I think the first movie that really got it right was Gone With the Wind in 1939. I am biased, though, since that's my favorite book/movie. Anyway, since the majority of the early winners were such sleepers, I decided to take up where Laura and I left off all those years ago. Yesterday I began with Going my Way and The Lost Weekend.

Going my Way, 1944
Bing Crosby is really handsome in this movie and his singing is dreamy. The plot is okay, but the movie still relies heavily on the use of a character who exists as seemingly the "town fool", someone to provide comedic relief. Bing is a Catholic priest sent to make changes in a parish, and he meets with a lot of opposition as well as makes some positive changes. My rating: ** (that's 2 stars)

The Lost Weekend, 1945
This stars people I'd never heard of. It's about an alcoholic and his battles with his alcoholism. According to the movie jacket, no one though this movie would go far because it was too serious and accurate in its reflection of the disease. I thought it was boring and the music was so "suspenseful" that it drove my neighbor Amber (who was watching with me) crazy. It's so hard to compare what was the "best movie of the year" with what wins the Oscar now a days. They are just so different! My rating: **

Museum 6: Manitowoc County Historical Society

After I was underwhelmed at the Rahr-West I headed over to the MCHS museum. I've driven past this place for years but never went inside. It's across from Evergreen Cemetery near the Aquatic Center in Manitowoc in an old school that used to be the Manitowoc Normal School, a training school for teachers. I enjoyed this museum. It was small, but had a nice exhibit about Manitowoc's past, including an exhibit about a man who was an acrobat from Manitowoc and joined Ringling Brother's Circus and operated his own acrobat school. The part I liked the most was the upstairs, where they have a genealogy research library. I have a distant relative who came to Wisconsin through Manitowoc, so I'm looking forward to returning there and having a volunteer hopefully help me uncover some information about my ancestor! This museum was small, but it's nice. The Historical Society also operates Pinecrest Village, which is another museum (it's actually a collection of buildings) but I didn't make it there before they closed for the season.

Overall, I did okay on my goal. I didn't get to the Farm Museum or the Washington Historical House in Two Rivers. I didn't get to Pinecrest Historical Village either. I'm told there's a car museum by Meadow Lanes West in Manitowoc but no one's quite sure if it's still there, and I didn't get over there to find out. I think, other than that, I hit all the museums. I'm most glad that I went to the Maritime Museum. I really didn't think it would be quite as neat as it was. Thanks to Vicki Franko for suggesting the challenge!

Address: Corner of 18th and Michigan, Manitowoc
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9-4
Would I recommend? Yes
Awesomeness level: 3
Time required: 30 minutes
Cost: $5 adults, $4 kids

Museum 5: Rahr-West Art Museum

I've been to the Rahr-West several times, but in the interest of fulfilling this challenge I went again. It's as disappointing as it's ever been. You can see from the picture that it is a big, elegant home. I love going in these old homes because they are always so gorgeous and I love to imagine myself living there. Not this house. They have one room that is set up as it looked back when the home was built, with period furniture, authentic wallpaper and carpeting, etc. It's very pretty, and exactly what I want to see when I visit a museum in an old house. But this is where the good stuff ends. The rest of the rooms have commercial-grade wallpaper on the walls and have a few paintings. There's no mention of what room you are in aside from the small brochure you receive at the front desk that tells you "Morning Room". However, the brochure then goes on to talk about the paintings, not about the original function of the room. The upstairs is even worse. The rooms that do not have the commercial-grade wallpaper have this hideous pattern from the early 1990's and again, the rooms are just used as displays for the exhibits. I guess what I'm trying to say is I feel the house should be what I'm there to see, not someone's collection of ivory.

Address: 610 N. 8th St, Manitowoc
Hours: 10-4 weekdays, 11-4 weekends
Would I recommend? If you like art
Awesomeness level: 2
Time required: 30 minutes if you don't spend a lot of time looking at paintings (which I don't)
Cost: Free, donations accepted