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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fourth Museum: The Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Yesterday I asked my new friend Elisabeth to accompany me to the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. This is one of those museums that I drive by about 5 times a week but never take the time to go into, because I was there when I was 6 and therefore I've already "done" that museum. Well, that changed yesterday. I was excited to tour the Cobia submarine and hopefully learn a little more about the huge barges and tankers that I constantly see sailing the lake from my wonderful vantage point at the hospital.

Elisabeth and I started the museum by watching a short movie about submarines that were made in Manitowoc. Did you know that 28 submarines were made for World War II in Manitowoc, and that 24 of them survived the war? I even read that the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company received several awards from the federal government for the quality of the boats and they completed their contract for the subs 15 months early! Then we headed into the submarine, which is permanently moored in the Manitowoc River, right outside the museum. Our tour guide was excellent and incredibly knowledgeable, and had a sense of humor to boot. We got a really good look at the bunks on go off on a tangent, they rent the submarine out for overnight sleepovers and I was really thinking about renting it for my next birthday party. After only 30 minutes on the sub, however, I quickly nixed that idea. The boat was swaying side to side just enough that you had to hold onto something or stand with your legs spread apart for stability. Let me tell you, when I got off the boat and back onto solid land I could still feel the ground moving beneath me, and there was a good solid hour where I seriously thought the contents of my breakfast were going to make a repeat appearance. I never really thought that I was affected by seasickness because I've been on quite a few boats, but evidently yesterday proved that wrong! Anyway, I really enjoyed the sub and it was neat to think that I was literally standing inside a boat that fought in WWII.
The rest of the museum was dedicated to exhibits for boats built in Wisconsin, a steam engine exhibit, the fishing industry in Wisconsin, and a really neat-looking kids place called the Children's Waterways Room where they get to play with water and wear water-proof vests. Elisabeth and I were very jealous we couldn't go in there, and she stood with her nose and hands pressed to the glass, looking into the restricted area for several minutes before we gave up.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed this museum the most so far. The sub tour was the highlight, but the rest of the museum was neat too. There's also a little exhibit dedicated to shipwrecks near Manitowoc/Two Rivers, which I always enjoy reading about. I also picked up a brochure for "Wisconsin's Schooner Coast...Sixty Miles. A Thousand Stories". The cities of Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Kewaunee, Algoma and Sturgeon Bay have joined together in advertising themselves as the Schooner Coast, with discounts at many businesses in those cities and even a trivia scavenger hunt for kids, with a prize at the end if they visit each of those cities and answer trivia questions about them. I just think it's cool that someone finally decided to capitalize on this amazingly rich history of shipping in Lake Michigan and use it to educate a lure tourists to this area. Did you know there's a shipwreck off Rawley Point in Point Beach State Park that's resting in 15 feet of water, with the top portion of the ship only 5 feet below the surface of the water? Supposedly in years where the lake is low the ship actually pokes out of the water! AWESOME!
I really hope you take the time to visit this museum, and that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Address: 75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc
Hours: roughly 9-5, 7 days a week
Would I recommend? Yes! Definitely!
Awesomeness level: 4
Time required: No less than 2 hours (if you really walk through the exhibits fast)
Cost: $12 adults, $10 kids

Monday, October 10, 2011

Museum #3: The Rogers Street Fishing Village

Today I wrangled my friend Amber into visiting the Rogers Street Fishing Village with me. I've lived in Two Rivers for almost 5 years and haven't been there, and she's lived here for 11 years ( I believe) and not been there, so this was monumental for both of us. The fishing village contains several different buildings, including an old ice house, the Kahlenburg engine museum (Kahlenburg boat engines were made in Two Rivers), the LeClair fishing shed, the old lighthouse from the Coast Guard, the Buddy O fishing vessel, and the Shipwreck Museum.

We first entered the Buddy O, which was a fishing boat that actually sank and sat at the bottom of the lake for several years, only to be raised back up to the surface and turned into an exhibit. It was kinda cool to walk through because the ceiling was very short, necessitating a very short crew! We then walked through a couple of the other buildings and climbed the lighthouse only to find it locked :( A gentleman who was working there then took us down to the Shipwreck Museum, which is about 3 buildings down the block from the fishing village. Once there, he stood and talked politics, how to save the economy, bragged about having 7 Masters Degrees and having written 7 books. Then he bragged about how he came up with a plan to save Wisconsin's economy and how he gave it to his banker who just so happens to be best friends with Governor Scott Walker. So when the economy turns around, it will be 100% this man's doing. He told us that he knows lots of important people, and his exact words were, "I'm a very important person too, which you'd know if you knew me." Amber and I were just completed flabbergasted by this pompous man. I have never ever heard anyone brag about themselves so much in my entire life. He then (finally) took us into the Shipwreck Museum, which you have all seen if you've ever walked/driven down Rogers Street. It's right next to the abandoned motel. I honestly thought it was another abandoned building, too! I had no idea it was still in operation. It wasn't much, though. It had quite a few objects from 3 local shipwrecks- the Vernon, the Rouse Simmons and the Frances Hinton. They were neat, but I feel like once you've seen items rescued from a shipwreck they all pretty much look the same. I might also not be impressed with these because I've seen items recovered from the Titanic so this seems like small peanuts to me.

Overall, I don't want to discourage you from going to this museum just because of the terrible experience I had with the tour guide. He told us this is his last week of volunteering there (he's been working there for 143 days to be exact, he said). Just to give you a heads up, though, he's the man with the cankles (calf-ankles, ie no ankles), lots of gold jewelry and really bad breath. I hope God forgives me for all the terrible things I've said about this man, because I'm sure his mother really loved him (that's what I always think to myself when I meet someone I consider to be really unloveable). I think kids will enjoy this museum because you get to actually go inside the Buddy O, and it's a small enough group of buildings that about the time kids lose interest you'll be done.

The pictures are: me in front of the coast guard lighthouse at the fishing village, me studying the tools used for processing fish inside the Buddy O, me standing outside the Museum, and me standing outside the Shipwreck Museum after being bored silly listening to the guy tell his ridiculous stupid stories.

Address: 2010 Rogers Street
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat-Sun 12-4 Open until mid-October, then closed till Memorial Day
Would I recommend: Eh. Maybe, just so you can say you've been there
Awesomeness level: 2
Time required 30-45 minutes
Cost: $4 adults, $2 kids

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The second museum: Two Rivers History Museum

Yesterday on the way home from the Wood Type Museum, I walked past the Two Rivers History Museum. I don't see it open very often, so I decided I had better strike while the iron is hot. I got a personal guided tour from a very nice older lady there, and it was pretty interesting.

The museum is located in what used to be the convent for St. Luke's church. It is now a collection of many different things. Each room in the convent is dedicated to something different, including dolls, music, aprons, glass/crystal baskets, genealogy, local churches, Boy/Girl Scouts, local football teams/Green Bay Packers, and items from different nationalities. Basically, it's a hodgepodge of items that are old that were donated when someone died. Does that sound harsh? Yes, but it's actually exactly what the woman who gave me the tour said. She was really kinda cute the way she kept almost apologizing for the seemingly random collection of items they have. I found it kind of interesting to talk with her about what Two Rivers used to be like. She showed me a bunch of old pictures of St. Luke's church, which is where my gym is now located. It's amazing how different it looked 50 years ago! I also got to see some neat pictures of the old high school in Two Rivers. It certainly was a beautiful building.

I had a nice time talking with the woman volunteering there, although I will say it wasn't necessarily the best museum I've ever been to. If you're just sitting around doing nothing some afternoon, I would recommend you check it out. Two Rivers natives will probably really appreciate a lot of the items that they have from back in the day, although I found them interesting even though I'm an outsider.

Address: 1810 Jefferson St
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat 10-3 and Sun 1-4
Would I recommend? If you don't have anything else to do
Awesomeness level(1=sucky, 5=CAN'T MISS): 2
Website: none
Time required: 30 minutes if you have a guided tour, less if you go at it alone

Friday, October 7, 2011

The first museum of the month: Hamilton Wood Type

The first museum I attended as part of my October challenge was the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum at 1619 Jefferson St in Two Rivers. I had visited this museum shortly after I moved to town with my parents about 5 years ago, and I wasn't too impressed. However, I watched a program about the wood type museum on PBS last week and it made me want to give it a second chance.

For those of you who don't know what wood type is (and I didn't before I went to the museum), it's the wooden blocks with letters carved onto them that were used to print newspapers, posters and billboards in the early 1900s before they came up with more modern methods. They have, I would guess, several thousand different types of fonts at the museum, with maybe 50 or so displayed. They also have a lot of the machines that they used to make the type displayed. Since I've been there last, they have made quite a few improvements. For one thing, it was warm in there. Last time I went it was during the winter and it was about 45 degrees in the building (I'm probably exaggerating). They have a lot more type displayed in neat cases that were made by volunteers. There's a nice young woman working there, who told me she had been hired 2 months ago as the assistant curator. She enjoyed that I was trying to visit every museum in the county and even asked for my blog address (believe it or not, I don't think I told her the right address). Also, the museum is a lot hipper than I remember. While I was there, a young couple about my age walked in and started taking pictures, and then a family. I'll be honest that I don't understand how people even see the museum- it's not on a main street, and it kind of just fades into the rest of the Hamilton factory. My best advice is they not only need to advertise a little, but they need a bigger sign so people know they are there and are OPEN!

While I was there a volunteer was using a press to print on the paper bags they use for any souvenirs bought at the museum. I watched her for a little while, which was pretty interesting. What I found neat was that they still allow people to come in and use the wood type to make things. It's mostly the artsy type of people who get into it, but they have samples of some of the things they made hanging on the walls and it's very old-school. My new friend the assistant curator said they have some sort of get together for people who love wood type called Wayzgoose 2 2011 in November at the museum and they are expecting over 100 people to come from all over the country.

My overall impression: I would recommend everyone go there just once to envision what work used to go into the making of a simple newspaper or banner. I can honestly say I had never even thought about wood type before ever in my life before visiting this museum, but now I do have an appreciation for it as an art form. A lot of the fonts are beautiful and decorative.

Also, and most exciting in my opinion, is that Target recently visited the museum and selected many different types of wood type for their new fall line of clothing. They had some of it for sale at the museum, but of course Target has even more. When I saw one of my friends post the link on Facebook to the Target commercial for it, I was like, "NO WAY! THAT'S IN MY TOWN!" This is the link to see all the goods at Target. com The commercial is towards the bottom of the page so you can watch that too.

Would I recommend? Yes
Awesomeness level (1=sucky, 5=CAN'T MISS): 3
Hours: Mon-Sat 9-5
Time required: less than 30 minutes

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No more dietary challenges for me!

I am so, so, so glad September is over. I have to say that I think this was my most difficult challenge- almost as bad as when I gave up chocolate for Lent. To refresh your memory, my goal for September was to eat vegetarian. I started off the month going to the Shawano County Fair with my parents, where I had to endure my dad's withering looks as we searched the entire fair looking for something for me to eat that didn't have meat in it and wasn't a deep fried appetizer. I eventually found a grilled cheese, but now I remember why none of the Smith family are's just something we DON'T DO, according to my dad. He says it's something people do just for attention. I have come to my own conclusions, though. I think it's a way of life for people who feel very, very passionately about animals. Vegetarianism is not for the weak at heart, and the reason I say that is because the world is stacked against you! American culture is geared toward meat eaters. Every restaurant, festival, EVERYTHING features meat! Have you ever seen a brat fry serving an option for vegetarians? Not if you want to eat more than a plain bun and a bag of chips.

I went to Applebees last week, expecting that since they are a nationwide franchise they would have SOMETHING for me to eat. Every one of their salads came with meat on them, and unless I wanted to order an appetizer, there were no meat-free options. I ended up asking the waitress to just leave the chicken off my salad. I will also say that unless if you go to a restaurant that actually does "meat-free" on purpose (I mean actually offers vegetarian options), I often left feeling not full. My dad would argue it's cause I'm not eating enough protein, but honestly even if I got a sub at Subway with every type of veggie they offered, my brain still knew there was no meat on it and I felt like I missed out on the best part of the sandwich. It's just psychological.

We went to Fazoli's last Friday and I asked the girl at the counter if their baked spaghetti had meat sauce on it. She said no, so I ordered it. Then she asked if I wanted to add meatballs to it, and I said no. She laughed and said, "Oh yeah, you said no meat. You must be a vegetarian like me, huh?" And I just kinda chuckled and said, "Sort of."

After this challenge I am officially declaring that there will be no more dietary challenges for me. No more adding or subtracting things that I stuff in my face. It's just too much a part of my daily existence and I really feel like I am missing out on life. I will admit that I let myself eat meat at Jason and Natalie Schamper's wedding, at the Employee Luncheon at work and at Octoberfest, so at least I had 3 opportunities to remind myself of what I was missing.

Now, on to this month's challenge. After much discussion with Laura and Kyle Lobner, who gave me many excellent ideas which I didn't use, I have decided to try to visit every museum in Manitowoc County this month. Vicki Franko gave me this idea, and although I've been to several of them, I look forward to visiting them again and giving you all the feedback. Maybe I'll stumble across something really cool that I can recommend to everyone...I'm going to try to write a separate post for each museum I visit, plus rate them on things like coolness factor. Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodness gracious, where did August go?

Well y'all, we've got some old, current, and new business to address. Let's get to the old business first.

Remember my February challenge? If not, I'll refresh you: I wrote to a company/person/celebrity every day and tried to fill their heart with warmth and love by showing my appreciation for them or their product. Funny enough, I received another response about 2 weeks ago...never mind that I had originally written to this person 6 months ago! Had enough of the suspense already? The response I received was from none other than... Nicholas Sparks! Here is the letter:
"Dear Andrea
Thank you for taking the time to write. It's always wonderful to hear from people who enjoy my work. Being an author, after all, isn't necessarily like other forms of entertainment. While I'm in on the "performance," I seldom experience the "response". So again, thank you for dropping me a line.

It's been a busy year for me. Right now, I'm writing a new novel entitled The Best of Me, which should be out this October. Assuming I finish it, of course. I thought I had finished, but there's a bit of editing to do. Actually, I have to pretty much rewrite the ending from scratch (the last 60-70 pages), but that's the way it goes sometimes. I was a bit bummed by that, but I trust my editor. All she ever wants is the best novel possible. The good news is that Warner Brothers has already bought the film rights.

Later this year, I'll also be producing for the first time. Safe Haven (Relativity Media) starts filming in October, and I'm kind of excited about the idea. One of the joys in my life is trying, and learning, new things, so it should be a lot of fun.

Also, The Lucky One (Warner Brothers) with Zac Efron will be out next year. I saw an early cut, and it's fantastic. I hope you're looking forward to it coming out in theaters as much as I am.

You said some lovely things in your letter and had some questions, but unfortunately, I simply don't have the time to answer them right now. Most of the answers, though, can be found on my web-site ( I'm also on Twitter (sparksnicholas) and on Facebook (, and I answer questions there, too.

I hope you're well, and thanks again.
Peace, Nicholas Sparks"

So, I will foolishly admit that right until the part where he said that I "had some questions" in my letter that I really believed he specifically wrote this to me. However, I didn't ask him any questions in my letter, so at that point I knew it was a form letter. Darn it. He really had me going for a little while! It was still a fun surprise to receive this letter so late, though!

Now, for this month's challenge: I was going to try to ride 250 miles on my bike. Did I make it? Drumroll please.... YES! I DID IT! I SMASHED THIS CHALLENGE OUT OF THE PARK! I not only rode 250 miles, but I added some extra on top of that, for a grand total of 327 miles! WOW! I honestly can't believe I rode that much! I am very thankful to Noli and my Uncle Steve for their help in getting several of the 20+ mile rides out of the way. I've learned a few things about my biking preferences over this month: I would much rather ride down city or country streets than on a bike path or a "rails to trails" path. It's just so much more interesting to have houses and people and farm fields to look at than to be riding endlessly through trees or on flat, boring trails. Although that is the one thing I do love about the "rails to trails" paths is that they are flat, since they used to be railroad tracks and therefore had to be fairly level for the trains. Next, I've learned bike shorts really don't help much. If you're going to crank out 25 miles, your butt is going to be sore no matter how much padding you have in that general vicinity. Third, always take wind direction and speed into account before starting the ride. I never ever did this, and suffered severely because of it. Fourth, ride with your mouth closed. I honestly can't do this while biking, partly because my nose runs and there'd be snot dripping down my face, and also because I can't breathe deep enough to support the excessive effort I'm requiring from my body. Finally, I learned it is incredibly better to attempt a challenge such as this when you can ride with someone else. The few times I had someone riding with me I was able to really nail the miles with seemingly little effort, but when I was out there by myself there were several days I just wanted to rip my legs from my body and leave them on the trail because they sure didn't want to cooperate. I think having someone riding with you really helps distract from the pain you are suffering. Some of you may remember that I promised myself I would buy something nice for every 25 miles above and beyond my goal I pedaled. The first thing I'm getting is a new computer. It just doesn't seem reasonable that it takes 30 minutes for my computer to boot up in the morning. I've ordered a new one already and it should be coming in the mail in a week or two! I do want to say this has been one of my most enjoyable goals, despite how much I am complaining about it. I absolutely love riding my bike and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after a great ride. And in case you'd like to know some other really impressive statistics, here they are: according to my cyclometer on my bike, I burned a total of 11,193 calories this month, 999 of which were fat calories. I love that little computer! The picture up top is the method I created of recording my miles. I colored in one pink box for every mile...and then had to add more boxes when I went beyond 250! Now we must move on to next month's goal...anyone got any guesses?

The goal is to eat vegetarian all month. With three small exceptions, that is. I am attending a wedding for my dear friends Natalie and Jason on 9/10/11, so I think I'm going to have to eat chicken there. Halfway through the month they are having an employee appreciation meal at my work, so I'll pig out on some meat there. At the end of the month I'm attending Octoberfest in Appleton, so all bets are off there. This is certainly going to be a challenge for me, because I happen to really love meat. I mean, I really really love it. But maybe it will be a good thing because I'll finally spend a little time cooking instead of always eating things out of the freezer. We shall see. And so again, I would like to thank you, loyal reader, for your support, input, and for taking the time out of your day to read my thoughts. I love when you make a special effort to tell me you read my blog, like Donna and Kara did this month. Stay tuned, and if anyone wants to join me on dining on lettuce and beans this month, just let me know!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's August already!

Well, the wonderful month of July is over, and with it goes my challenge of completing several projects that have been left undone for a long time. I'm sure you're wondering how I did and just how fantastic my house looks now. In self defense...

Ok, I already told you I wasn't home much in July because I was on vacation for 9 days. Add into that the days I worked or was at the cottage, it didn't give me many days. Add on top of that the fact that I was trying to get my upstairs apartment rented out, which required several projects as well that were not on the list, and you have (you guessed it) not many things crossed off my list. Here is what my list looked like at the beginning of July:

1. Finish touch-ups in my upstairs apartment so it's ready to rent (I'm 90% completed with this goal already)
2. Attach the screen to the south side of my porch that was removed 2 years ago
3. Repaint my front porch, hopefully with a paint that lasts longer than the Dutch Boy Porch Paint I used last time, only 2 summers ago
4. Touch up paint in my bedroom, living room and dining room
5. Hang my Gone with the Wind puzzle/movie posters/pictures on the walls in my spare bedroom
6. Vacuum my basement, including the million spider webs
7. Fix the pulley ropes that snapped in 2 of my windows, leaving them unopenable
8. Screw mesh over the holes the starlings made in my roof so they can't get in to build a nest in my attic again next spring
9. Clean out my gutter that caused the basement to flood 3 times in a week

Holy. Cow. I hadn't looked at this list in a long time, and it sickens me to realize I did ONLY ONE THING ON THIS LIST! This is the worst challenge I've done so far. I am a complete and utter failure. Boo hoo. I completely repainted 2 rooms in the upstairs apartment (including ceilings) and repainted the cabinet under the kitchen sink up there. All my hard work did lead to getting a tenant, so now I have reestablished the flow of income and I'm living high on the hog again (not quite, but it's nice to dream). I TRIED to reattach the grid to the bottom of my porch last night but didn't have the appropriate tools and I got frustrated, so I just quit. That is the summary of the projects I completed this month, and this concludes my presentation *head hung low*

That's enough dwelling on the failures of last month. Let's move on to this month. As some of you saw on Facebook, my friend Noli correctly predicted this month's challenge would be to, in her words, "ride a bajillion miles" on my bike. I had initially wanted to log 1,000 miles in a month. I got zero support on this goal. Everyone told me I was crazy, stupid and setting myself up for failure. Fine, I retuned my goal to 500 miles. That breaks down to about 16 miles a day, which is reasonable. So I set out on my bike this morning for a leisurely 16 mile ride. The ride sucked. I did well for about 8 miles and then I hit the wall, and by the end of the ride I had revised my goal to 250 miles for the month. I think it was the humidity, the GIANT hill I climbed on my bike and my under-inflated bike tires that conspired against me. Also, I think my blood sugar was low cause I just about passed out a couple times despite drinking plenty of water. I'm going to have to carry a snack with me from now on. So the goal is now 250 miles, and I've decided for every 25 additional miles above and beyond 250 that I do I am going to buy myself something really nice that I've wanted for a long time but have never spent the money on, like a comfortable lawn chair, a Wii, a new computer, a road bike, a DVR, or something along those lines. You notice most of those are fairly expensive. That's how confident I am that I won't exceed my goal! I think once I hit 250 I'll be DONE! I've created a little chart for myself to keep track of my miles, and I'll keep y'all up to date. This also means I am looking for biking partners so let me know if you want to go for a ride!

Friday, July 8, 2011

July is here already!

June is over, and with it went one of my most enjoyable challenges. I attempted to find a geocache in every county in the state. Did I achieve my goal? No. I did hit 19 counties, which is roughly 26%. I'm not too disappointed in myself, though, because I found 18/25 caches I searched for, for a 76% success rate! My work schedule unfortunately made it difficult to schedule trips to the far reaches of our wonderful state, and coupled with my extended road trip to Gettysburg in May (over 2,600 miles) I just didn't feel like spending lots and lots of time in my car. I did go to a special effort on several occasions to find geocaches, however. I forced my dad to go caching with me one weekend at the cottage. We both got terribly bug-bitten, and I didn't dress appropriately to search so he had to walk through the tick-ridden woods for me while I stayed in the safety of mowed lawns. I went to visit my dear friend Claire and her beautiful family in Madison, so I nabbed several caches on the way down there. And finally, I talked my friend Christina into driving to the outlet mall in Kenosha with me. I had the honor of introducing her to the hobby of geocaching. It was a great day- we found 100% of the caches we looked for, including 3 that Christina the geocaching-rookie located! I have decided that I am going to make this a lifetime goal, because I get an immense sense of accomplishment coloring in the counties on my map.

And now, onto July's goal...Drumroll please...

My July goal is to finish all the little half-done projects around my house. There's a bunch of things that have driven me crazy for a long time but never get done, mostly because it involves a trip to the basement for the appropriate tools. Well, those projects are in serious danger of being completed. Thus far my list includes the following projects:

1. Finish touch-ups in my upstairs apartment so it's ready to rent (I'm 90% completed with this goal already)
2. Attach the screen to the south side of my porch that was removed 2 years ago
3. Repaint my front porch, hopefully with a paint that lasts longer than the Dutch Boy Porch Paint I used last time, only 2 summers ago
4. Touch up paint in my bedroom, living room and dining room
5. Hang my Gone with the Wind puzzle/movie posters/pictures on the walls in my spare bedroom
6. Vacuum my basement, including the million spider webs
7. Fix the pulley ropes that snapped in 2 of my windows, leaving them unopenable
8. Screw mesh over the holes the starlings made in my roof so they can't get in to build a nest in my attic again next spring
9. Clean out my gutter that caused the basement to flood 3 times in a week

Ambitious? Certainly! Especially considering I have become very close friends with the nurses on 3 East and I'm trying to work there as often as possible (This statement is false. I am just typing this to test them and see if any of them read this). I am also going on a wonderful vacation to Montana with my parents in 10 days, so that eliminates a good chunk of the month. I think the satisfaction I get from crossing each project off the list will motivate me. At least I hope so, since staring at these unfinished projects for the past couple years hasn't been enough to get me going.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Challenge #6, here I come!

Well folks, I have finished my May challenge. You may ask, "What was your challenge? I can't remember because you haven't posted anything on your blog in like, well, forever!" And my response to that would be, "I'm just so busy being a nurse, world traveler and monumental time-waster that I haven't gotten around to writing anything lately. And the challenge was to eat the recommended daily servings of fruit and veggies." Now that we have that out of the way, I'm sure you'd like to know how I did. The answer is: not too bad.
I'm not certain I can say that I got the daily recommended servings, but I certainly made a conscious effort to eat more fruits and veggies. Even while I was on vacation I made sure to order veggies when I normally wouldn't. And I carried a big bunch of bananas in my car with me on vacation, so I made sure to eat one every day. I would find it considerably easier if every fruit and veggie came pre-packaged in its own wrapper like bananas do, so I could more reliably track my consumption. I know that you can measure out a "fistful" of something as a serving, but frankly, my food isn't on my plate long enough for me to try to measure out how much I'm eating. I will say my chocolate consumption has returned to normal. At the beginning of May I was still gorging on chocolate, since I had given it up for Lent. Now I can go an entire day without chocolate (though I don't know why I'd want to) and only eat a small amount the next day and feel satisfied and not like I have to make up for lost time. I will admit I didn't dedicate as much time and effort to this challenge as I did to past challenges, but I still think it was a worthy challenge and I really hope to keep the consumption of the healthy stuff going and keep my chocolate and ice cream consumption down where it should be. Please observe my current food pyramid in the picture above and congratulate me as you see fit :)

Now for my June goal: I am going to attempt to find a geocache in every county in the state of Wisconsin. For those of you who are unfamiliar with geocaching, it's basically the best hobby ever. You use a hand-held GPS to find items that are hidden by other fellow geocachers. The thing they hide is called the geocache, or cache for short. I've always loved scavenger hunts, so this is awesome for me because it's like a scavenger hunt that is available 24/7. Once you find the cache you sign your name on the log to prove you've been there. Some caches are large enough to contain trinkets that you can swap. After you get home, you log on to and log your find. My neighbor Amber and I have 5 geocaches that we hid last fall and we really enjoy reading the feedback from all the people that have found our caches. So I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time on the road this month, trying to knock off as many counties as possible. I can't wait! I (unfortunately) anticipate many mosquito bites and lots of ticks, if this past weekend at the cottage is any indicator. Stay tuned to read about my geocaching adventures! Also, I always have more fun caching with someone than when I go alone so if anyone wants to go with me, let me know!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Well hello there, May!

The wonderful month of May is here, and I'd like to thank my friend Coren. Coren lives way out on the west coast, in a state called California. She suggested to me that my challenge might be to eat the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables every day of the month. This might not seem like much of a stretch for a lot of people. If you glance at the food pyramid I drew based on my previous eating habits, you will see why I consider this to be a challenge. I actually had to spend some time researching the food pyramid, because despite having aced my nutrition class in college, I had forgotten how much I was supposed to eat. Let me tell you what I learned: the new food pyramid that the government designed a few years ago SUCKS! On the website ( you can type in your height, weight and activity level and it will give you recommendations on how much of each food group to eat. BUT- the recommendations are in ounces and cups! It recommends I eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of veggies. Yeah right, like I know how much that is. Why can't they just call one apple or one banana or one orange a serving? Then it would be simple! So I looked up the OLD food pyramid, which says I should get 3-5 servings of veggies and 2-4 of fruit. Much easier for a girl like me to understand. So, with that being said, I have officially started eating more vruits (that's my combo of fruits and veggies). I even ate a banana with breakfast, and consumed an apple at work instead of some sort of kringle a patient had shared with us. Maybe by eating more of the healthy stuff I'll cut down somewhat on that wonderful group that currently makes up the base of my food pyramid!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wow, April's over!

My challenge for this past month was suggested to me by my friend Noli. I attempted to walk every street in Two Rivers. Didn't seem like it should have been too hard of a goal, considering the population is only 13000 people, right? It was a challenge, let me tell you. First, the weather this month seemed destined to make sure I wouldn't be able to get any walking in on my days off. Then, I faced another vicious enemy: loneliness. I can't tell you how bored I was walking for hours by myself. I spent these hours reflecting on my shortcomings, where I thought I'd be at this point in my life, thinking about how much I hate walking (when really I don't), berating myself for how I rarely finish anything I start, etc. The majority of the days I walked it was cloudy, which always puts me in a sad/contemplative mood, and the days I worked I walked at night, which always made me sad when I looked in people's windows and saw them gathered around their tvs with their families. So anyway, it was difficult spending this many hours alone. Finally, the last roadbump to achieving my goal seemed to be my body itself. I struggled with a sore hip until I got new walking shoes about halfway through the month, and my nose was so runny (because it was so cold out) that my pockets were literally packed with soaking wet kleenex.

I started out with the goal of actually walking the entire length of every single street. I kept that goal until today, when I realized I just didn't have the time. So today and today only I walked on several streets for only one block instead of the entire length. At least I can say I was on every street. Special thanks to my friend Heather from work. She walked with me a couple times these past 2 weeks and it really helped me keep my sanity. Unfortunately, I didn't lose any weight because I just eat too much. I did enjoy getting out and seeing the town after the long, long winter. I only wish I had kept track of how far I had walked, because I'm sure it was an impressive distance. On a related note, we had a fitness challenge at work the past 8 weeks. It ends Saturday (thankfully). I will admit that I hand-picked the other 3 people on my team because I wanted to win really bad- the prize is an ipod shuffle for each person on the team! I have exercised EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 8 weeks, even the days I was so busy at work that I thought I would die of exhaustion. And yet, despite personally putting in an average of 600 minutes a week, my team is 52 hours out of first place. Sadly, we won't be winning those shuffles. But I'm thinking I might buy myself one anyway, after working out so hard for so long. I posted a picture of the map of Two Rivers I used to chart my progress. That's a lot of pink streets, huh?

Monday, April 4, 2011

April has begun!

Well, I finished my March challenge strong! I spent in total over 8 hours editing my book (I spent extra time a few days) and I am very close to being finished. It feels really good to be so close to being done with it. I'm almost kind of sick of it. I wonder if real authors feel that way about their books by the time they're published? I don't know any authors so I guess I'll never know. I'm sure my parents are ready for my book to be published because they keep begging to read my book but I won't let them until it's published...My dad assures me he will buy a copy no matter what, but still... Please take a moment to enjoy this picture of my calendar with 31 smiley face for each day I spent 15 minutes editing my book!

This month's challenge is off to a good start. So far I've walked over 6 miles of Two Rivers city streets in my quest to step foot on all of them. I have to say it's kind of difficult picking a route because I try to zig zag back and forth in order to hit as many streets as possible, but then I'm left with the cross streets. So then I have to come back at a later time and hit the cross streets. I've started to chart my walks on, and if I can figure out how to link that to this you'll be able to see my progress. I also got a map from city hall and I carry it and a highlighter with me so I can mark off where I've marked. Today wasn't that great for walking- it was really windy any time I headed west (which was 50% of my walk) but I still got some good walk in. I had to call it a day when a rather annoying chafing issued caused me to come up lame, but hopefully tomorrow I'll lube myself up well and be ready to hit the road again!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The month draws to a close...

One day left in March, and since I work tomorrow I doubt I'll be posting any wrap-up then, so how about today instead? I haven't finished editing my book, but I'm over halfway there. As I've already said, I feel much, much more proud of this product than the first round. It's got better flow, and thankfully my four wonderful editors not only caught a huge amount of my mistakes, but they made excellent suggestions as well. Many thanks to Katie Kelch, Amber LaFountain, Katie Smith and Laurie Gross for reading my book last year and giving me your feedback. I will say that the random underlines that my cousin Kate provided me throughout the novel don't give much guidance as to what she meant, but she's excused since she read the book while feeding her baby.

I have decided on my challenge for April and it is from a suggestion one of my wonderful friends provided me. See? It does pay to beg for help each month. However, as is my tradition, I will not reveal what the challenge is until April 1. Let's just say it involves my feet and a lot of sidewalk.

Thanks again for reading. I realize the majority of the time I post things, it's neither witty nor entertaining but for some gosh-darn reason you guys keep reading anyway. Probably just in the hopes that you're going to get lucky and hit the one post that actually is funny. Today's not that day, and the forecast for tomorrow doesn't look so hot either. Sorry, dude.

The picture above is my super high-tech book editing station. Yes, I am using both my tv tray and a dining room chair to hold the copies of my book. Looking at that pic again, it makes me look kinda messy, which I guess is...true. Dangit.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I am shocked to report I received another wonderful response to my February challenge that included a gift card! This response is from New Balance shoes (by now you know how much I love them, since they're made in America). Their letter reads as follows:

"Dear Ms. Smith, Thank you for contacting New Balance! We are grateful that you took the time to express your thoughts and concerns about our products and services. Total customer satisfaction is very important to us and we appreciate your feedback. New Balance proudly relies on our manufacturing associates to produces a quarter of our North American footwear worn by consumers in the US each year. We are proud to invest in American workers who provide some of the greatest working spirit, commitment to advancement and ingenuity known in the industrial world. In addition, we would like to thank you for your continued customer support. To express our gratitude, we have included a gift certificate to be redeemed with your next purchase through our online retailer Please let us know if you have any additional questions by email or at 1-800-622-1218. Have a good day! Sincerely, James Duprey"

So I'm now the proud recipient of a $10 certificate for Hallman Lindsay Paints and a $25 gift card from New Balance. And I didn't even ask for a response from any of them! Cool!

As March draws to a close, I know for certain I won't finish proofreading my book in time, which is ok. The spark to finish it has been rekindled inside of me, and I can't wait to be done! Especially considering the idea for my next book is taking shape in my mind, and I'm going to need to pour it out onto paper soon before I forget it!

I'm taking suggestions for challenges for the upcoming month. I have a few that I can fall back on if nothing better comes up, but I am hoping someone will come up with a good one for me! You can post it here or facebook it to me! Thanks for reading!

And can you tell spring is on the way and I'm breaking out of my winter doldrums by how many exclamation points I used in this post!? WOW! Exclamation points are the BEST! So are CAPITAL LETTERS!!!!!!! But the very best is CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS USED IN A SENTENCE TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to eat less sugar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another response to my Feb. challenge!

I received another response to my February challenge, and this one wins the prize for the largest monetary value. You may remember that I wrote to the Hallman Lindsay Paint Company to tell them that I admired the quality of their product and the fact that not only is it made in America- it's made in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin! I painted the bricks on the lower portion of my house with it last summer and I will say it is the thickest paint I've ever used. It also covered in just one coat, which is something a lot of other paints advertise but lie about. Anyway, here is what their letter says:

"Dear Ms. Smith:
Thank you very much for your February letter to our company! We were very glad to hear about your positive store experience with our staff in Manitowoc, and that you were impressed with the high quality of the paint we make here in Wisconsin. We very much appreciate your efforts to let other people know about our company and our paint! Without loyal customers like you in Wisconsin, we wouldn't be able to continue our business. We hope to see you in our stores again soon. Please find enclosed a gift certificate for $10.00 towards your next purchase at any of our stores. If you are coming through Sun Prairie, let us know- we'd be happy to give you a tour of the plant! Many thanks again for your support of our family owned, Wisconsin-based company. Sincerely, Renee Kalvestrand Marketing Director"

Cool, huh? I never imagined I would get anything worth actual money out of this! I almost can't wait for my next painting project so I can use the gift certificate! And I'm planning on being down near Sun Prairie in June, so what better way to spend a beautiful summer day than touring a pain factory (ok, I'm joking a little bit here.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sometimes someone touches your heart...

Well, as promised, I am going to share with you a wonderful card I received in the mail this week in response to my challenges. It's from my friend Cameo, and it didn't make my day- it made my week! It reads as follows:
"Annie, Hello there! As you are my inspiration, I thought it only fitting that you should receive the first card. I started to make a list of things and people who make me happy and let them know. It is a much better pastime than worrying over the "thorns" that are in the way. A whole year with challenges, it is such an admirable goal. You might find you'll be changed by the experience:) ! I made a list, and wanted to start in April, but I hit 40 people/places in the blink of an eye! So I began today 3/11/11 and I will see how far I can go. 1 person a day, and if I need to add more to my list, well I'll just keep writing! Thank you for being my inspiration. Thank you for your challenges and your blog, I am a fan! Happiness and blessings, Cameo"

I told a few people that I didn't set out to inspire others. I set out to see if I could just complete 12 different challenges. But I quickly realized, just a few days into January, that I DID want to inspire others! I love that I got other people to pay attention to where everything they buy is made, whether that is America or China. I love that I have given people feedback that they value, whether that be my favorite author or my favorite bike company. I guess without initially meaning to, I am trying to spark a change (however small) in those around me. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but of course it means more coming from a dear friend than from Menards!

Cameo, I'm honored that I inspired you to let those who mean the most to you know how you feel. I want to thank you for choosing me to be the first recipient of a card. And I really hope that everyone reading this can do one little thing to positively impact someone else's life. (Sound like the movie Pay it Forward? Tough.) When you think about it, that's what I'm trying to do: encourage others to make the world a better place. I dare you...what will you do?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fan mail continues to pour in...

I've still been receiving feedback from my February challenge, although I also got a small disappointment. My letter to Adam Richman (the adorable host of Man vs Food) was returned unopened. I guess this means my chances of meeting and marrying him are fairly small since I can't even get a letter to him :(

But on a happier note, a few days ago I got a letter from the author Janet Evanovich. It reads: "Andrea, great to hear from you. You'll have to excuse the semi-form letter. I love getting mail, and I read every single letter that comes in, but I've had to stop handwriting responses. Too many letters and not enough time. Hope you continue to enjoy my books and thanks for taking the time to write. Fondly, Janet" (signed by hand). So that was pretty neat! Today I received a response letter from General Mills after I had shared with them how much I enjoyed their Fiber One cereals, granola bars, etc. They wrote: "Dear Ms. Smith: Thank you for contacting General Mills regarding Fiber One granola bars. We appreciate the time you have taken to share your positive feedback with us. We will be very happy to pass on your comments to the product team. We are committed to creating the highest quality products for our consumers. Feedback such as yours helps us to achieve this goal for the future. We appreciate your loyalty and hope you continue to enjoy our products. Sincerely, Kristin Wynn"

I would have to say I'm pretty impressed with the feedback I've received. I never once intended to get anything back, so I'd say the response has been great. I think that makes a total of six or seven people/companies that I've heard back from. Out of 28 days in the month, that's about 1 in 4 return rate. Pretty cool!

I am, however, saving the very best response for its own post. Stay tuned- tomorrow I'll share a really touching card I received in the mail from a wonderful friend in regards to my YEAR OF CHALLENGES!

Now, for an update regarding this month's challenge: I continue to KICK BUTT at editing my book. I feel like I've made some huge improvements, with my proof being that I'm only on page 67 out of 266 pages of the book. I am going over it with a fine-toothed comb, moving portions around, changing the wording, etc, and I really feel like I'm going to turn out a killer product. However, I don't think I'm going to be able to finish this challenge by the end of the month. Luckily, that wasn't part of the challenge- it was only to consistently work on it 15 minutes a day. Like I said, stay tuned! There's more to come tomorrow!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The best response I've received!

Yesterday I received in the mail the very best response to my February challenge that I've received so far. Yes, I would even say it was better than my signed picture of Bob Barker. It was a little envelope that obviously contained a thank you note, but I didn't recognize the name or the address of the sender. I opened the card and suddenly it hit me- I had received a personalized thank you note from one of my new favorite authors, Lynn Austin. She writes some of the most beautiful Christian novels that I've ever read, and I had let her know how they touched my heart and how I couldn't wait to read everything she had written. I also told her part of my purpose for writing my letters was to bring some happiness into other people's lives, and my hope was that they would spread it around (kind of like the movie Pay It Forward). I was fairly certain she wouldn't even receive my letter because I could only find the address for her publisher, but it was so neat that they got my letter to her. Here is what she wrote me, in her own handwriting:

"Dear Andrea, Thank you so much for taking the time to write and tell me how much you've enjoyed my books. I think it's a wonderful idea to write an encouraging letter every day! I know that you've certainly made my day. Thank you! I think we'll be very surprised when we get to Heaven to find out how much those "little things" really meant for Christ's Kingdom. I hope you continue to enjoy my stories and that they are a blessing to you ---Lynn"

Isn't that just the coolest? I had tears in my eyes as I read her letter. I can't believe a real author took the time to send me a card like that. And now, knowing how much it can mean to someone to receive something like that, I'll make sure to send a note to recognize all 4 pieces of fan mail I'll receive once my book is published ;)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update update update

Well, as the month of February drew to a close I had a few fun surprises. I received an envelope from Trek with 6 stickers in it. I had sent them a letter telling them how much I love my Trek bike and how I appreciate their headquarters is in Waterloo, Wisconsin! I thought it was pretty funny that they didn't send me a letter or anything, just 6 stickers in an envelope. Then I received a letter from Dyson (because I love my Dyson Animal vacuum so much) and they wrote,
"Dear Andrea, Thank you for your letter. We're pleased that you are enjoying your purchase and we appreciate your support. Comments from consumers who use our machines over time are very valuable to development of future products. You might be interest to know that one third of the people at Dyson are engineers and scientists who are constantly challenging and improving existing technologies. Dyson is committed to absolute customer satisfaction." Then they went on to tell me how to contact them (although obviously I already KNOW THAT!). So that was cool.

Then, I got a letter from Menards. I'm sure you know how much I love that store and how much money I spend there. I also totally love that they send me a birthday card with a gift certificate for a free gift and also how they have "Made in America" sales. This is what their letter said:
"Dear Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to write and for the business you have given us. We appreciate your comments about the birthday gift and products made in America and have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your letter to those involved so they may enjoy them also. We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future. Sincerely, Arlene Krueger" (signed by a real person!)

I'm pretty excited that I got several responses from my letters. I certainly never expected any feedback, so it was pretty neat. Now, to talk about this month's challenge. I've been...lazy. Actually, I haven't been lazy so much as I've been super busy, so this month's goal had kinda fallen by the wayside. Yesterday I finally had some time off so I spent an hour or so editing my book. Today I've spent another half an hour, and I only have another half an hour to go before I'm all caught up. I feel really good about the changes I'm making, and hopefully it will turn out to be a book that is worth your time to read! Thanks for reading my blog, friend. I'll try to keep it fresh for you.

Oh, can I add that we started a fitness challenge at work? The winning team gets ipod shuffles, so basically I HAVE TO WIN! I've been exercising my butt off (I wish that would really happen) and I am finding it challenging to participate in two challenges at once (haha, play on words. Get it?) I can use your encouragement to keep me active. Thanks in advance. I'll let you listen to my ipod shuffle once I win. :)

And, Lent started today so I've given up chocolate. That's 3 challenges! EEK!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Challenge #3 begins today!

Before I begin talking about this month's challenge, I must add that my final complementary letter from yesterday went to Menard's. I complimented them on how many of their products are made in America and how much I enjoyed their Made in America sale. Thanks to my sister for the idea. And thanks also to Amber, Ken and Ariel who gave me many ideas throughout the month.

This month I had intended to eat vegetarian. Yesterday I went to the store to purchase ingredients for a meal and was shocked at how expensive it can be when you're making meals that contain 4 different types of fresh herbs. Then my brilliant friend Amber suggested I wait to go vegetarian until a month when produce is fresh locally so I won't spend an arm and a leg. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so instead of being vegetarian I have decided to make March "Edit My Book" month.

You may or may not know that I wrote a book last's amazing what you can accomplish when you spend 5 minutes a day writing! After slightly more than a year, I finished writing my book and gave it to several friends for feedback. After I received their feedback I did...nothing. I just set my book aside and haven't touched it since. My dream, like anyone else who writes a book, is to have it published. I decided this month I would spend 15 minutes a day revising my novel or spending time researching how to get your book published, etc. I'm very hopeful that by the end of the month I will have an excellent product that I am proud of and can send off to publishers. I'm assuming it will take a few months to get an agent, a contract, etc, so probably by mid-Sept you can expect to see me on Oprah's Book Club. I'm very hopeful that spending 3 times more minutes revising my book than I spent writing it will help me iron out some of the kinks. And I promise that when I publish my book and you buy a copy, I will sign it. This offer is only for my closest 196 friends on Facebook, so act now! :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The month's almost over!

Whew! I'm glad this month is almost over because I think it was harder to think of 28 people/companies to write to than it was to buy American. Ok, maybe not, but it was tough. I haven't posted recently because I've been super busy, but here's who received letters from me recently starting where I left off on my last post:
Feb 11- Lynn Allen, the most wonderful babysitter God ever created. She truly became a second mother to us and made Laurie and I members of her family. We love her!
Feb 12: The ReStore in Appleton. They sell new and used home supplies and proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity
Feb 13: American Pickers. Frankie and Mike entertain me every Monday night as they travel the country, picking treasures from people's barns and garages.
Feb 14: Josh Gracin, a great country singer who sings two of my favorite songs: Brass Bed and Endless, Helpless, Hoping. (Update: unfortunately, this letter was returned to me as "Not Deliverable to Address". I don't think the USPS tried hard enough to deliver it.)
Feb 15: Jim Caviezel, the actor who starred as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. He is also in The Count of Monte Cristo and Frequency. Great actor and a morally upright example.
Feb 16: Lynn Austin, author of quite a few Christian historical novels I have been enjoying lately
Feb 17: Dyson Vacuums- I've never used a vacuum that works as well as my Dyson Animal. It was worth all the money I spent on it.
Feb 18: Pure Michigan, the tv and radio commercials with Tim Allen as the narrator talking about what a beautiful place Michigan is. Those commercials are the most beautiful poetry I've ever heard and they bring tears to my eyes!
Feb 19: Trek Bicycles- some are even made right here in Wisconsin! I bought my first Trek a couple years ago and have been extremely impressed with the quality of the bike
Feb 20: Hallmark Channel- I love love love their Hallmark movies and I love the Hallmark commercials they play during the movies. They both make me verklempt!
Feb 21: Hallman/Lindsay paint company- paint made in Sun Prairie, WI. I purchased it for the first time last summer and it's the best quality paint I've ever used!
Feb 22: Steve Martin- I love his cd The Crow that came out in 2009 with his banjo songs, and he's got another cd coming out it 2 weeks. I can't wait, and I wish I was as good as him at the banjo
Feb 23: Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau: They recommended the beautiful hike that I took while on vacation and also recommended taking the Apache Trail, a 1 lane dirt road highway hanging precariously off the side of a cliff. It was awesome!
Feb 24: Whitecap Mountains: I went skiing there last month and the lift operators were so friendly that they really made the experience even more enjoyable!
Feb 25: Jacobs Meat Market, aka The Wiener-House-Store in Appleton. My family's been shopping there for years, and they are one of the last neighborhood grocery stores in town.
Feb 26: Steve Carell- I love him on The Office. He never fails to make me laugh!
Feb 27: General Mills- they make Fiber One cereal and granola bars, which keeps my colon happy.

Now, I'm sure you noticed the photo at the top of this post. I sent Bob Barker a letter back on Feb 7 telling him how I grew up watching The Price is Right and how the show wasn't over until he said "Have your pets spayed or neutered. Goodbye everybody!". I also told him how much I admired him for his contributions to the fight to save whales from Japanese whalers. I didn't ask him for anything in return, I simply told him I admired him. And he sent me a signed picture of himself! In case you can't read it, it says "To Andrea, Thank you for your lovely letter Bob Barker". I also thought it was neat because I didn't put my address in the letter, so he had to go through the trouble of saving the envelope and getting my address off it. So, even though my intention was never to receive anything from this month's challenge, it still made me feel good to get that nice picture!