Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Heart Dresses!

Now is the time of year when I always get the itch to buy dresses upon dresses in preparation for the nice weather. Over the past couple weeks, I've scratched that itch by purchasing multiple dresses (mostly from Forever 21, one from Anthropologie, and one from Victoria's Secret). Rest assured, I don't normally stand around and take countless pictures of myself, but I thought I would share these dresses with you to see what you think. In particular, the second group of dresses include some "potentials" for the future sis's bachelorette party this summer (the color scheme involves various shades of pinks and reds), so your input is always welcomed. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger. Sorry the quality isn't awesome, I took them on my phone. And don't be afraid to say you don't like any of them. I won't cry. ;) Enjoy!
Random dresses that I thought were cute!

Potential bachelorette party dresses!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mmm, Payday.

So, this is somewhat random and irrelevant to anyone but me, but I just need to express my overwhelming happiness about the fact that at least right now, I no longer have to count down the days and hours and minutes until my next paycheck arrives. In fact, I just remembered today that I got paid yesterday. Since I've started this job, nothing has made me happier than the 15th and 28th of each month - my 2 paydays. Before I got my tax refund back, I was seriously scraping by SO bad and was forced to think of creative ways to live on virtually no money. Not fun. For a variety of reasons, my tax refund was quite high compared to normal, and obviously you will hear no complaining on my end. The only downfall lies in the fact that it was a bit of a fluke and I will probably never receive that big of a return again, at least not in the near future. Oh well. For right now, I'm just trying to enjoy the sense of freedom I have from the grip my finances have had on me. Now I just need to be smart with it. That's a whole different issue though. ;)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HBD, Casey Mae! :)

Today marks the birthday of my wonderful future sister-in-law, and since I can't be there in person, I thought I would celebrate with her in spirit by making a post dedicated to her! :) I have added a collection of photos of me and Casey over the past few years for your viewing pleasure (oldest photos first). Some are nice, some are crazy. Very representative of our sisterly relationship! ;) So glad to have you in my life, Casey! Happy, happy birthday!!

Out for Megan's b-day (holy old picture!)

Our attempt at a "jump" shot in Central Park. Clearly it worked. ;) P.S. My hair rocks!

Celebrating Smith. Bros. 25th anniversary at Royal Tokyo!

Thanksgiving 2009!

Ha ha ha! Out and about in La Crosse. Casey was really happy. ;)

Celebrating my 25th birthday at Royal Tokyo!

Lovely pic of us at Charlie's in Milwaukee!

I ended with a nice one of us at Las Palmas in Milwaukee! :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Long Lost Loves.

This weekend took me on a sweet trip down memory lane. During my time in college, I managed to meet some of the most amazing people I've ever known, and I consider myself extremely blessed to have them in my life. I'll admit, I'm not the best when it comes to keeping in touch. I have good intentions, but life happens, and I don't get to catch up with people nearly as often as I'd like. That's why when I found out that not one, but TWO, of my favorite friends from college were going to be in Milwaukee this weekend, I was thrilled!!

My friend Lauren has been a part of my life since I first moved to La Crosse. We lived in the same dorm our freshman year, and then we were roommates during our sophomore and junior years. This girl can seriously bring a smile to my face faster than anyone I know. She's hilarious, but also incredibly sweet. While we were reminiscing at lunch yesterday, we realized that it's been about a year and 1/2 since we last saw each other. Very disheartening! Fortunately, she's in town all week, so I think I get to sneak in at least one more visit with her before she heads back to Minnesota. Can't wait!

Me and Lauren at Mo's Irish Pub for lunch!
My friend Jen is someone I was fortunate enough to meet on my study abroad trip to England in the summer of 2007. (Time out, I can't believe it's been almost 4 years since that trip!) At the time, I'd never been overseas, and I didn't know a single soul going on the trip with me, so to say I was nervous is a bit of an understatement. Fortunately, Jen and I became really close during our time there, and the rest is history. We're so much alike that it's scary. Gotta say, I can't even imagine my life without her! The pictures below serve as a "naughty" and "nice" display of sorts. When she and I get together, things usually get a little crazy before the night's over. ;)

Me and Jen before going out on the town in Milwaukee!
After far too many shots (noticed I spilled on myself). Quite representative of us.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy 4 Months!

Today's been a good day! Not only did I get to go out and celebrate one of my favorite days of the year last night (St. Patty's Day), but today marks the day that I've been in my job for exactly 4 months. FOUR months! I seriously cannot believe I've been here for a third of a year already! There have naturally been some difficult days, but when I reflect on the time I've been here so far, I honestly cannot even express how much I enjoy my job and being in this city. I still learn so much on a daily basis, both about the work I do and about Milwaukee in general, so I feel like I'm growing a lot as a person. Gotta say, I'm kind of proud of myself! :) I've already done a lot more than I ever thought I could. And with it being such a busy time in our office right now, I feel like the school year will be over before I know it. Crazy how time flies these days! Anyway, this is a short entry in comparison to some of my recent ones, but I just wanted to take a quick minute to talk about my 4-month anniversary with my job! Wish us luck on many more happy months together! :) (Oh, and just for fun, I've included a few photos regarding St. Patty's Day!)
St. Patty's Day flowers from my boss! (He knows how much I love this day!)
A pitcher of green beer for me and my coworker, Kari!
A pint of beer and "The Monster" (both mine). The name of it says it all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Retail Therapy:)

Since I moved to MKE, I've had very few opportunities to really spend money on myself. Yes, I've gone out for dinner. Yes, I go get drinks once in awhile. Yes, I've bought an occasional item of clothing here and there. But none of that has occurred without making me feel a huge amount of anxiety about whether or not those expenditures would cause me to eat crumbs off my kitchen floor until my next paycheck arrived. So, needless to say, receiving my WI tax refund last week made me feel extremely happy! Don't worry, I won't blow it all away, but I feel like I've earned the opportunity to purchase a few things for myself. Not that you're particularly interested in seeing what I've "wasted" my money on, but I thought I'd share some of the purchases that have brightened my mood these days!!

First of all, my dear future sister-in-law has been busy planning her bachelorette party, and she's decided on a color-themed party. The color scheme is pink/hot pink/red/rose/light pink, which fortunately leaves a lot of options! Last week, I ordered 2 potential BParty dresses from Forever21. The first dress is interestingly not one that I'd picture myself liking, both in color and in style. However, I saw it and instantly had that moment of, "Shit, this dress is going to haunt my dreams until I purchase it." Surprisingly, when I sent the future sis a long list of dress links to sort through, she picked that dress as her favorite too, even without me saying anything. That MUST be a good sign, right?! The second dress is just simple and girly. When you click the link, remember that I obviously got the red one. I just received the dresses today and am pretty excited about both of them. When I go back home next weekend, you best believe I will be seeking the opinion of any and all people who are willing to watch me prance around in dresses all day long. :)

1. ALDO shoes. This purchase was also inspired by my future sis (I'm sensing a pattern here). Which color, are you wondering? Both. Yeah, that's right. LOVE them!

2. Brewers t-shirt. I'm very happy about this shirt, and it makes me really excited to go to my first EVER Brewers game this season! I don't have tickets or anything yet, but I figure since I live in Milwaukee now, there's no way I can't go to a game this year.

3. Here are two recent purchases from the store Anthropologie. I try to avoid that store like the plague because it's amazing, but amazingly expensive. A few weeks ago, I bought this dress. Feeling guilty, I went to return it today. I was then informed that the dress was on sale for half the price, so of course, I had to keep it. (Shoot, sometimes this link works and sometimes it doesn't, sorry!) The other item I got while there today was this shirt. In case you were worried, I will have you know that both of these items are WAY cuter in person. Just wait until you get to see me in them!

Now, go buy something for yourself. It'll make you happy. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sex and the City

As usual, today is reserved for nothing but pure laziness. I can't even explain how much I love Sundays (minus the fact that it means Monday is that much closer). Anyway, I just turned on my TV and flipped to an episode of Sex and the City. I own all the seasons, and I've watched them from start to finish multiple times. However, I still get just as excited when it's on TV! And to make today even better, I just so happened to turn it on at the exact point when Carrie was saying one of my all-time favorite lines from the show. Here's a little context. In this episode, Carrie's boyfriend breaks up with her by writing it on a Post-It. Later that night, she's out with the girls and sees a bunch of her infamous ex's friends. She walks over and talks to them, and in the process tells them about the break-up. The guy's friends defend his actions by saying that maybe he broke up with her that way since girls can be scary when you try to break up with them. He also boiled it down to the fact that he doesn't believe there's any "good" way to break up with someone. Carrie's awesome response?
"It's funny you should mention that, because actually, there is. You can have the guts and the courtesy to tell a woman, to her face, that you no longer want to see her. Call me crazy but, I think that you can make a point of ending your relationship in a manner that does not include an e-mail, a doorman, or a missing persons report. I think you could all get over your fear of looking like the bad guy and actually have the uncomfortable break-up conversation because, here's what, avoiding that is what makes you the bad guy. And just so you know, most women aren't angry, irrational psychos. We just want an ending to a relationship that is thoughtful and decent and honors what we had together. So my point is this, there IS a good way to break-up with someone, and it doesn’t involve a Post-It!"

I don't know why I love that part so much, but I think she's got some pretty good points. No one likes to have "the" talk when it comes to breaking up, but there are definitely better ways to approach it than others. Anyway, I know this is a totally random entry, but I just thought it was a crazy coincidence that I turned on the TV at the exact moment she was saying one of my favorite lines. Oh, I tell ya. Gotta love SATC! :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daniel Tosh Knows His Shit

I don't know if you watch Tosh.0, but if you don't, you should. I'll admit, I feel a little guilty about finding humor in his horribily inappropriate and politically incorrect jokes, but I can't help it. The dude is just plain funny. Anyway, I already loved Daniel Tosh, but the picture below makes me love him even more. I'm sorry for yet another politically driven entry (I'll do my best to write more uplifting ones from here on out), but I saw this photo and felt the need to share its awesomeness with you. I completely agree with him. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Budget Bill Effects

After writing my initial entry about Governor Walker's budget repair bill, I keep thinking about it and feel the need to talk about some more of the direct effects that it will likely have on Wisconsin. Obviously, the majority of you know that I'm involved in higher education, so the impact the bill has on teachers and state employees is very near and dear to my heart. After doing quite a bit of research on the subject matter, I found what I believe to be a pretty credible source about the anticipated ripple effects of this ridiculous bill. Feel free to check it out here, but I'll also give a bit of a summary.

Those in support of this bill are running on the assumption that the cuts to public workers will somehow magically not have an effect on the rest of Wisconsin's residents. Wrong. As this article so eloquently explains, "At a time when Wisconsin is trying to grow the economy, cutting the disposable income of state, local and school district public sector families undermines purchasing power, the most crucial element in economic recovery and growth." If individuals lose money and can't afford to buy the things they normally buy, then those other businesses will undoubtedly see a decrease in sales, thereby having a negative and harmful effect on their ability to stay afloat.

If Walker's plan manages to do everything it claims to do, then here are the shocking results of what he's proposing, according to the above article: For state employees (i.e., my colleagues), there'd be approximately a 10.9% reduction in total employee income ($429 million). For local employees, there'd be approximately a 7.0% reduction ($335 million). For school districts, there'd be approximately a 3.9% reduction ($230 million). Add it up. That's almost a billion dollars in cuts. If this sounds like foreign language, just think about what you make per year and then calculate how much you would lose if you took any of these pay cuts. Full disclosure here. I only make $28,000 per year. Not much given the fact that I have a Master's degree (not trying to toot my horn or anything, just stating the fact). That's a whole different issue that frustrates me - so many people in support of this bill think that people in education make a ton of money and are "spoiled" by the benefits they receive. I challenge you to find an administrator or educator who makes an outrageously large amount of money. And if you do find one, I guarantee you that person is the exception, not the rule. Anyway, if I were working at a public institution (i.e., UW-La Crosse), and I was making the same amount of money that I make now, you could essentially take my salary and reduce it by 10.9% to understand the effects of this. So, if I thought I was scraping by with $28,000, after this bill, I would potentially be making a mere $24,948 (before taxes, mind you) per year. In no way can I find the justification for this. How on earth does this HELP the economy? As stated in the above article, "Attempting to right the economy by slashing compensation for public sector workers is like trying to save weight on an overloaded boat by tossing the motor overboard. It just doesn’t help in getting you where you want to go."

Given what I just said above, it should come as no secret as to how this will effect Wisconsin's educational system. By eliminating collective bargaining, educators have very little control over a lot of things, one of those main things being class size. It has been proven time and time again that the smaller the class size, the better the quality of instruction. If a teacher has 20 kids versus 60 kids in a class, one could imagine why the larger class size would make it far more difficult to teach effectively. It's no secret that Wisconsin's public sector workers receive some pretty great benefits. No one is denying that, and in fact, those benefits are one of the main reasons Wisconsin has been able to attract such quality candidates in the past. That being said, I also have to address the individuals who keep saying, "Well, if all teachers are concerned about is their pay and their benefits, then it's time for them to find a new job because it should be about the kids, not about the money." I agree, but to make that argument right now is ridiculous. The vast majority of educators ARE in education for the right reasons, and to imply that them simply wanting decent pay and benefits is somehow selfish or immoral is beyond me. Keep the following points in mind. Wisconsin public sector workers are paid quite a bit less than many of their equal counterparts in other states. If you want to attract quality candidates, you do have to provide them with some incentive to come here and even more incentive to stay. I don't care who you are, in ANY job, you're at least going to consider different options if another job will provide you better pay and benefits. Why wouldn't you? Just because people would like a job that provides some security and some decent benefits doesn't mean they are terrible people who are only looking out for themselves. In fact, if you want to talk about people like that, look at Scott Walker. I'm genuinely afraid of the potential implications of this bill on education.

Okay, I'm sorry. I could seriously go on about this forever (obviously). I'm just very passionate about it and absolutely hate seeing how much one person has divided the state, and the entire country for that matter. I just want to make sure that we can make a positive difference for the state of WI when it comes time to get these misguided politicians OUT of office. Nothing would make me happier.

***I should also state that while much of this is based on facts, some of it is also my simple, heartfelt opinion. In no way am I trying to imply that I'm right or that I'm not open to hearing different viewpoints. This is simply my way of expressing my personal beliefs and discontent over what is currently happening in Wisconsin.***

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scott Walker = Downfall of Wisconsin

Alright, folks. I apologize in advance because this will probably get long, but I'm about to do a major political rant here. I'm usually not one to be so open about my political views, but with everything that's been happening, I feel like I have to say something. I don't know what your beliefs are or how much you follow politics, but I just have to say this. I believe that what Scott Walker is currently doing to the state of Wisconsin is unspeakable. For weeks, he's been trying to pass his proposed "budget repair bill," which in reality has so little to do with the budget that I'm not even sure how it's called that. He's tried repeatedly to convince people how broke this state is, but he's conveniently failed to mention that we became far more broke once HE took office in January. In addition, he has attempted to brainwash people into thinking that stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights is one of the only ways to fix this so-called budget crisis. Uh, wrong. If it were actually about the budget, then Walker and his little asshole followers would have been willing to negotiate the terms of the bill like normal politicians do; however, because this whole shittin' mess has been more about dismantling unions than it has about helping the state, he refused to negotiate his stance. Figures. For those of you who don't know, union members tend to vote largely Democratic, so by taking away their rights, Walker is essentially doing all of this for political gain in hopes that breaking up the unions will increase his chances for re-election next term. For God's sake, his camp has even admitted that that's what they're doing! Nothing like looking out for the good of the state. Right. I swear to God, if this guy gets re-elected, I will move out of this state. Granted, I'm not part of a union, but many of my dear friends are deeply affected by this and I fully support them. If you haven't been following, here's what you should know. In order to pass this budget bill, there needs to be a certain number of senators in session to meet the quorum necessary to vote. Perhaps you've heard of the 14 "missing" Democratic senators? Well, those Senators fled to Illinois to prevent the Senate from being able to vote on the bill until the rest of the members agreed to negotiate. The only time Walker offered to talk with these Senators was when he mentioned tricking them into a fake negotiation and voting behind their backs once they returned. Tell me this, if a policy you're trying to pass is so controversial that you have to trick people in order to get it passed, then maybe, just maybe, wouldn't you stop and think, "Hey, perhaps this isn't in the best interest of the people?" Not if you're Scott Walker. Anyway, no one knows how long the Dems will remain out of state, but sadly, tonight we realized that it doesn't really matter, at least not for the part of the bill involving unions. Because the collective bargaining piece of the budget doesn't involve spending money, those sneaky little Republican bastards were able to separate that piece of the bill out and vote on it tonight, even without the missing Senators. Sadly, it passed, hence the reason I'm so fired up and writing about this. Here's the thing. By separating that part of the bill out, they're essentially admitting that eliminating collective bargaining has no financial effect, thereby proving the point that this has NEVER been about the budget. What does it mean? Basically, the majority of union workers in WI will lose the right bargain for wage increases, and they also have to pay more towards their pensions and double their health insurance contributions. Interestingly, union workers agreed to these increases as long as they could keep their right to bargain, but nope. Walker still insisted that taking away their bargaining rights was the only way to go. Now that it passed, it basically means some pretty significant pay cuts for union workers. Um, how does this help the state again? Last time I checked, taking a significant amount of money away from the working middle-class who's already struggling isn't, or at least shouldn't be, at the top of the list for solving the state's budget problems. Seriously. This shit is messed up. In the words of Mark Miller, Democratic Senate Minority Leader, "In 30 minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten." Couldn't agree more. Sadly, for me, it's not even so much about what Walker is doing as it is about how he is doing it. He is a shady character who will clearly do anything for personal gain. Anyway, maybe you don't care about this as much as I do, but if you have any interest in it, I strongly encourage you to stay informed. And if you don't do anything else, all I ask is that you PLEASE do not vote for this corrupt a-hole next time around. Ok, rant over. Thanks for reading. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pure Laziness

To say that the month of February flew by would be the biggest understatement of the century, and NOT just because it's the shortest month of the year. I had something going on every weekend last month, so it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. The Super Bowl, a visit from family, a visit from friends, and a visit to La Crosse. All good things, but holy crap, I feel like my head was spinning the whole time! Needless to say, this past weekend was 100% welcomed because I had NOTHING to do. I did briefly go out on Friday night, but I was home before midnight, and for the rest of the weekend, I did nothing but lie on my couch and watch Dexter. I'd like to think I don't have an addictive personality, but shit, I am a.d.d.i.c.t.e.d. to this show. For reals. Most of you know that I have a weird tendency to buy movies and TV on DVD before I watch the movie or show. It's a habit, I can't help it. So, after hearing multiple people rave about Dexter, I figured I'd give it a shot. I'll admit, the first few episodes didn't immediately hook me, but I wasn't about to give up on it that easily. It's a good thing, because since starting to watch it this weekend, I have already managed to get halfway through Season 3. Keep in mind, there are approximately 12 episodes per season, so I've managed to conquer about 30 episodes (each about an hour long) in a matter of a couple days. Yeah, I'm awesome. ;) Anyway, this post has taken quite the Dexter twist, but the moral of the story is that I had an amazing, lazy weekend, and I can only hope for more of those in the near future!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One and Only

I'm not usually one to do two music posts in a row, but I am just in that kind of mood! I recently bought the new CD by Adele called "21", and holy shit, it is AMAZING. I seriously love it all. Her voice, the melodies, the lyrics, everything. Pleeeease do yourself a favor and check it out! I chose to share this particular song because it's simple. And it's pretty. And it's romantic. And it explores the notion of starting a new relationship. All things I'm kind of into lately!

The beginning lines are especially sweet. Since this version is live and sometimes hard to understand, feel free to click here after you listen if you want to see the lyrics. I seriously cannot say enough good things about this CD. Go buy it...right NOW! ;)