Sunday, June 8, 2014

Festival of the Arts 2014

Friday after work, Kyle and I met up at home and then headed downtown to one of our favorite Grand Rapids summer events, the Festival of the Arts!

Festival of the Arts is an awesome street fair with local music, art, and food. Admission, performances, and activities are all free. There are several stages with constant performances throughout the day, as well as art displayed at various downtown locations. And the food - there are food booths set up throughout with lots of delicious choices, and proceeds benefit local organizations. What could be better for a summer weekend?

Today is the last day of Festival this year, and you can't miss it! Festival is open from 10 AM-7 PM, so check out this handy-dandy map and get ready for an epic Grand Rapids Sunday. Live in the city and can't make it out? You can tune into performances on GRTV's Livewire Channel 24 on Comcast Cable. (GRTV is a service of the Community Media Center - so much love in this post!)

When we arrived Friday evening, we walked around and sampled some yummy food for dinner while enjoying a couple performances. That night, we volunteered with the GRTV video crew - see Kyle in the pic below? We had such a fun time and after visiting Festival most years since we've lived here, it was so cool to get more involved.

Mom asked for a Festival selfie, here's what we sent her. :)
Seriously, don't miss Festival. Events like this that bring our community together in celebration of our cultures and include activities for all people are exactly why I love Grand Rapids. So head down and enjoy!

More info can be found of the Festival of the Arts website. Consider volunteering next year - there's a job for everyone! :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wine Tasting in the Leelanau Peninsula

Last weekend we went wine-tasting in the Leelanau peninsula with our roomie Beth to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Kyle had never been before, and I only had been to the famous Grunst Brothers fall event in Big Rapids (seriously, Big Rapids peeps, if you haven’t gone, check it out) so it seemed like a great opportunity to escape the city for a night and head up to Traverse City!


Mission Peninsula in Traverse City during our trip there last June. Oh summer!
We started out at Chateau de Leelanau so we could pick up a handy-dandy map of the peninsula. It was a good place to start! $5 for 5 tastes, and they give you a laminated menu and marker so you can mark what you want to try.
Next we drove north to Leelanau Wine Cellars so that we could work our way back down the peninsula. If you live in Michigan, you've likely had their wines. It's even available at Meijer. What you might not know is that they offer "Tasting Room Only" flavors that aren't available anywhere else. They also have complimentary tasting. This was my favorite winery of the day, for so many reasons. The man who served us was another reason - he had recommendations based on what we liked, and as Kyle pointed out, was really excited about watching you taste the wine.
We backtracked a bit to go to Beth's favorite, Black Star Farms. It was crowded, but I liked most of what I tried and they had several different pre-picked flights for you to choose from based on your taste. Best of all here: you get to keep your cute little tasting glass, which is etched with their logo.
Pro-tip: most of the wineries are only open until 5 or 6 PM, so you have to start earlier than we did to make it to more places. We only made it to four...
...which brings me to our last stop, Tandem Ciders. No, this isn't a winery, but is all about the ciders! I really loved everything that we tried here, and they even made a great suggestion and let us mix our two favorites in our to-go growler.
As a side note, we had dinner at Mackinaw Brewing Company (this threw us the first time too - it's actually located in downtown Traverse City). If you love craft beers and love a nice burger, this place is for you. Our recommendation is the dill havarti cheese sticks as an appetizer - we had these for the first time last year and still talk about them.
All in all, it was a great weekend to celebrate our best friend's birthday.

Cheers!
Julez

Saturday, March 16, 2013

LaughFest's Bud Light Comedy Jam


On Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the Bud Light Comedy Jam at the Orbit Room. It's part of LaughFest, a ten day comedy fest in Grand Rapids that benefits Gilda's Club. Check out their website - they are an awesome organization who provide cancer and grief support for kids and adults. LaughFest is Gilda's way of spreading the message of the importance of laughter for overall emotional health.

I attended the Bud Light Comedy Jam with my friend Amy Jo, who won tickets from WGRD. (Thanks guys!!) There were 4 comedians and we had a lot of fun hanging out, laughing, and of course enjoying a Bud Light! (Big thanks to my awesome hub for driving us.)

LaughFest at The Orbit Room





















Of course we couldn't leave without getting some LaughFest swag. I recommend the High Five! These $5 buttons are being matched by the Wege Foundation - you pay $5 for the button, Gilda's Club gets $10! All proceeds from the sale of merchandise goes straight to Gilda's, so either way it's a winning situation, but why not double your donation with the High Five?! And you can pay for merch using cash or your credit card through the provided Square app. (Check out this post for more info on the Square app - I'm a fan.) So easy!

High Five!



















The event runs through Sunday, so you can still make an event! Many are free - check out the list here. One of my favorite events is the Amateur Stand-up Competition that our friend Keith performs in. We saw him last year and it was so cool to see him on stage at the B.O.B.! He'll be performing again this year at the B.O.B. March 17th at 6 PM and it promises to be a hilarious time!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ray Lewis' Ascension into Heaven


Every Super Bowl Sunday since we’ve moved to Grand Rapids, we’ve met up with our friend Ashley to watch the game, have some laughs, and eat Frank’s Buffalo Chicken Dip. Super Bowl 2013 was no different!

The game opened with the Newtown kids singing “America the Beautiful” with Jennifer Hudson. I have to admit I had a little something in my eye – those kids are so strong and inspiring.



I was rooting for the Baltimore Ravens & a triumphant end of career for Ray Lewis, so the first half was pretty uneventful. The Ravens were making touchdown after touchdown, including a ridiculous 109 yard rush in 11 seconds, and the score was 21-6 at halftime. Nothing to worry about here.

My favorite commercial in the first half was definitely the old people 4th mealing it at T-Bell. I think we’ve all been there!

We made a quick run to the store but made it back before missing Beyonce’s halftime show. I don’t have much to say about that – I don’t think they ever choose a really good performer for halftime. The multiple dancing Beyonces were a little bit too much for me, but my 12-year-old self dug that it turned into a Destiny’s Child reunion.

The second half opened and the Ravens scored immediately. All of the sudden we lost the announcers…and then the lights went out.

Twitter blew up INSTANTLY. I have to say, Super Bowl 47 was one of my favorite sporting events to tweet during. We spent the half hour or so waiting for the game to start back up laughing at everything from “The guy from Airplane shut off the lights!” to “Any minute now, the heavens will open up and Ray Lewis will ascend into heaven.” To see our favorite tweets, check out our Twitter feeds.

Finally, the game gets going again, and now it’s the 49ers turn to score multiple times in a row. I almost lost faith – the blackout seemed to really cause the Ravens to lose focus. But they held the 49ers off, and kept the lead to win the game 34-31. What an amazing way to end a career; but I can’t imagine what the score would have been if the power never went out!

I had two favorite commercials from the second half: Gangnam Style Pistachios and the Tide Montanaland spots. Here’s the Tide spot, if you missed it:



The commercials were really different this year, pulling at the heart strings more than tickling the funny bone. I guess there is a place for that right now, with all the hurt our country has faced recently, but I enjoy laughing more. A lot of people seemed to really like the Farmer commercial, and while I enjoyed the nostalgia, I didn't find it very realistic. All in all, it was a great game, and I will surely miss the football season. At least baseball will be here before we know it!

What did you think of last night’s Super Bowl? What was your favorite commercial?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fingernail Sunday


For as long as I can remember, Sunday has been Fingernail Sunday. Every Sunday, my mom would change up her nail polish, and inevitably, mine too.

As I got older, I started doing my own, but when I was younger, I experimented with my mom. I remember walking into my 3rd grade classroom on Saint Patrick’s Day with jade-colored fingernails. I loved it. I thought I was so cool.

One of the more recent times I participated in Fingernail Sunday was before the Packers vs. Steelers Super Bowl in 2011. Here’s a throwback pic of what my mom came up with:

Guess who I was rooting for?















I recently became interested in the “accent nail” trend, so after my mom gave me a new Ulta polish for Christmas (Ulta Salon Formula Nail Lacquer in Diva), I decided it was time to try the trend out last Sunday.

Sephora & Ulta; my favorites



















When I started out, I had planned to do all black nails (having recently purchased Sephora by OPI in What’s a Tire Jack?) with a sparkly accent nail.  Although I usually prefer black (when I got a mani/pedi on my birthday last year, the tech questioned me for choosing black several times), I’m glad I went with the opposite – and I still thought I looked cool. ;)

The finished product

















Both polishes actually held up really well for the entire week, even though I didn’t use any kind of base or top coat. The Ulta polish was not as pink as I expected, but looked good nonetheless. The Sephora polish was the perfect opaque black after two thin coats. In short, 
I’d recommend both, and they looked good together, too. One note: the Ulta polish was   
a complete pain in the ass to get off (just like any glitter polish). I had this pinned, but we are out of cotton balls, so that’s a tip for next time.

Do you like the ring finger polish trend, or do you think it’s lame?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lucky #2013

Happy New Year!

Fun fact: Did you know that 2013 is the first year since 1987 to be composed of four different numbers?

Even though I realize that a New Year does not necessarily mean I am a new or different person than I was last year (aka two days ago), I can still hold onto the hope that starting fresh and re-prioritizing can bring.

I'm not too keen on the whole "resolutions" thing, and studies show that if you do make a resolution, especially about weight loss, you are more likely to fail than succeed. However, I've been taking some time over the past couple days to reflect on my life and think about what's important. So here's my list of goals for 2013 - resolutions, if you must. :)

1. Be happy.
This is super objective and something that we all need to constantly work at. Sometimes happiness can be hard to find, and over time, the things that make us happy change. But you have to take the search into your own hands. I challenge you to think about what makes you happy, and do it. Stop making excuses - I will be working to do the same.

2. Be Way CREATiVE!
In 2012 Kyle & I finally named our freelance video/media production partnership. In 2013, we hope to start up as a business. I hope to expand not only our client base but also the types of projects we take on, as we have experiences with multiple media platforms in many different environments. This is another objective goal because it's really part of the next 5-years-or-so-plan as it is a part of my ultimate career goal.
Way CREATiVE Logo
You can keep up with our current projects by checking out our blog and following us on Twitter!

3. Be active.
I enjoy working out and now that I am working less hours during the day, can take more time to do so. I downloaded a cool (free!) app called Workout Trainer at Google's suggestion. I tried it out last Saturday (who says you have to wait until the previous year is over to get to work?) and really enjoyed it! You create a profile by telling it your age, weight, fitness goals, workout preferences, and even the amount of time you have to work out from 5 minutes to an hour. It has several ways to set reminders so you can't forget to work out! 

There are many free workouts of all intensity levels and you are able to preview the exercises before you start. During the workout, a voice instructs you on how to do the exercise while an animation of a real person shows you the movement. It also counts down each exercise as well as the total workout time.

I highly recommend this app for anyone who's looking to be more active. It can really be tailored to anyone's needs and preferences and takes the thinking out of working out. I plan to use the app along with other forms of exercise that I love (walking, running, kickboxing, Pilates/Yoga, etc.).

4. Make better choices about what goes into or onto my body.
Of course, this mainly relates to food and drink. For the most part, we make pretty healthy choices at our house. With a few exceptions. I am a Coke fiend. We both love chocolate. And we're guilty of eating late at night and drinking too much beer sometimes. Instead of focusing on not having these things, I'm going to work to replace them with a better option. Tea instead of Coke. Some of this will just take time and planning. Some of it will take taste-bud-adjusting and strong willpower.

I downloaded another app to help me make these better choices. It's called Fooducate and it was another New Year suggestion from Google.  It's a bar code scanner that gives you the nutritional values of thousands of foods. I haven't tried it out yet and will report back with a review.

5. Read More.
This one is self-explanatory. I love to read to learn and to free my mind, and I haven't been doing enough of that over the past few years.

6. Stress Less.
Easier said than done, right? This is a big one for me and another thing I have been working on and will continue to work on. Stress has given me both physical and mental beatings in the past . While stress can take many paths into your life, the good news is that it can also take many paths out of your life. Part of my stress less plan is to keep up on my other commitments to myself, but there are other things you can do. Laugh with friends, get enough sleep, cuddle a pet!

Of course, there are many other things we're looking forward to in 2013, but I think these 6 things are really key for my success. I'm sure that I'll check in now and again with my progress. And if you see me straying from one, hey -- call me out!!

What about you - do you make New Years resolutions? What do you hope to accomplish in 2013?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Caring is Creepy: Book review


Caring is Creepy – David Zimmerman (c. April 2012)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

WARNING – Spoiler Alert. Come on. You’re reading a review. What did you expect?

I love a good book – good stories, yes; but also books that teach and make you wonder. I hadn't read much recently before starting my new job a few weeks ago. Conveniently, my new office is located on the top floor of the largest, most lovely library right in the heart of our city. With all of those books downstairs calling my name, my hiatus from reading has ended.

Caring is Creepy is the story of two 15-year-old best friends, Lynne & Dani. When Dani receives a computer for her birthday, the two girls begin using the Internet as a way to play pranks on people. One day, Lynne makes the huge mistake of using her real identity, and the story progresses from there. She gets caught up with an older man who has gone AWOL from the Army, and the plot twists to intertwine with the story of Lynne’s mother and her drug-dealing boyfriend in the deadly climax of the story.

I was interested in a book that used the Internet in a mostly-modern way (although I don’t necessarily buy that these girls are JUST starting to use a computer) because the Internet itself can be a predator. However, Lynne’s real problems come from a lack of parenting. Lynne is forced to be an adult, and when she gets way in over her head, she just keeps going. She rationalizes the situation to survive it, just as her mother and boyfriend do.

All in all, I give Caring is Creepy 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was interesting and really captured me at the beginning, but it dragged on after that and I had trouble suspending my disbelief. There were too many unanswered questions at the end. This technique has its place, but I hate leaving a huge WHY?! up in the air.

Fun fact: The book is named after The Shin’s 2012 song Caring is Creepy. I hadn't heard it before – and still can’t say I’m a fan after listening – but here’s the video so that you can check it out.