Sunday, July 31, 2011

Laura Loves {July 2011}

July has been one of those months that oddly goes both fast and slow at the same time. Its gone fast in terms of fun with friends and family but I have also been excited for August 1st to come so I can start moving into my new apartment! But August is now upon us so it is time to recap things I’ve loved in July!!! You can go back and check out what I loved last month {here}.

Tommy Bahama Beach Chairs

This month my family and I were on vacation at the Jersey Shore! Before vacation, my sister spotted these great Tommy Bahama beach chairs at Costco. We each decided to buy two. (This is the best stock photo I could find for you to get the idea {Photo Source})

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I am head over heals for these beach chairs. They have 2 storage areas in the back…one regular zipper pouch and one that is insulated to be a cooler. They sport an adjustable head rest, have 3 reclining positions and even have the ability to lay flat. The bar in the back used to lay flat can also double as a towel rack when sitting upright. There is a pocket on the arm with a cup holder and a little pocket to keep a cell phone. However…my absolute FAVORITE feature of these chairs is that you can wear them as a backpack!!

My sister brought my set of 2 down to visit for July 4th! We headed to the National Mall to watch fireworks and used these chairs to carry our drinks, some fun and games, some dog stuff…and of course our seating! We were carrying quite a bit besides what was in the chairs as well and walked about 20 minutes to get to our spot on the Mall…but the chairs never felt heavy!! They were great! I will say though that I learned not to use the cell phone pocket on the arm….I forgot my phone was in there and it fell out when I moved the chair. Fortunately a very nice man had picked it up and got it back to me!

We had all four of our chairs down at the beach and we loved them! Every day we would pack up our own chairs to bring to the beach. And as other people struggled to carry their chairs…we would just have them on like backpacks…arms free to carry an umbrella or boogie board! I was even able to put my towel in the seat so I didn’t have to carry that as well! I love these chairs and I still see them at Costco for $25 each…worth every penny!!

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Daily Grace

I just recently discovered the YouTuber DailyGrace and I am really enjoying watching her videos each day. Grace is a young improve comedian based *I THINK* in New York and she puts out YouTube videos 5 days a week! She has them up first thing in the morning so it has become one of my favorite ways to start my day! (Nothing like a good laugh in the morning). Recently she taught viewers how to make her own creation: Sweet Weenies!

I can’t decide if she is joking or not but I THINK these things might have actually surprised her and turned out good….I’m thinking I’m going to try them out when I have a housewarming party! Don’t worry I’ll make regular appetizers too!! Winking smile

Vera Bradley Desktop Wallpapers

I remember Vera Bradley literally blew up in college and was the “cool tote bag” to have for school. I always thought they were pretty but a bit expensive for what they seemed to be and so I sort of resisted the trend. My sisters have fallen in love with Vera Bradley bags and lately they have started to grow on me more and more…especially when on sale. I purchased my very first Vera Tote about a month ago while on clearance and I’ve really liked it….but that is not what I love this month…

While looking at the new Fall 2011 colors online I discovered this downloads page of the Vera Bradley website! I love the desktop wallpapers they provide!! A lot of them are great wallpapers because they only have a hint of the pattern you love while giving you a nice solid base on most of the screen so you can see your programs and folders! I have used 2 of them at work already and have bookmarked the page for when I feel the need for a change!

Also…as a sidenote…I really love the new pattern Safari Sunset….I MIGHT have to check out a bag in that pattern when these colors go on sale!!

Summer TV

My summer TV is in full swing! I am always a bit sad when my regular full season favorites end for the summer in May but come June/July some of my favorite shows that are only on in the summer come back! My top summer shows are Big Brother and So You Think You Can Dance.

Now…some say Big Brother is garbage but my sister and I really love the show. I think its fascinating seeing how people almost have to play a game of “chess” with each other while having absolutely NO privacy locked in a house for 3 months. They have absolutely no contact with the outside world. They aren’t allowed to write anything down…and there are cameras on them 24/7. Pure recipe for paranoia and drama haha…but also some cool game strategy! In fact you can even subscribe to the live feeds so you can actually watch the contestants all day if you want…the show is filmed as its aired and the “eviction” shows happen live! (I don’t subscribe to the feeds but I’m considering it for next year…there are a lot of things you don’t see on the show!) I just think it is fun to see how people play this survivor type game in this situation. The best part is…its on 3 times per week!! (Which actually winds up not seeming like enough!) Its only the 4th week in the house so there is still time to watch what happens. It airs Sunday 8pm, Wednesday 8pm, and Thursday 9pm on CBS!

So You Think You Can Dance on the other hand is winding down and is only two weeks away from the finale! If you don’t watch this show….it is really impressive and finally got an Emmy nomination for Best Reality Competition series. The dancers for this show are unbelievable and a lot of the choreographers are amazing! Put those things together and you get a lot of amazing and entertaining pieces! Each show also provides an array of styles including hip hop, contemporary, ballroom, jazz, broadway, and sometimes even bollywood! Each week one guy and one girl get eliminated based on viewer votes as well as judges decisions…until the finale when we find out who wins the title of America’s Favorite Dancer!

Also a bonus….is the host Cat Deeley! She is such a great host! She seems to really care about the contestants, keeps the show moving, and is always on point! She also does her own styling!! So talented! She finally got an Emmy Nomination for Best Host this year which is well overdue!! I’m rooting for her during the Emmy’s!

Here is one of my favorite dance pieces from the show…with my personal favorite dancer Melanie!

There were a lot of things I’ve loved this month but I have to keep this one sort of short…lots more packing to get to! But on a fun note…my sister Linda is here and we are going to the Celebrity Soccer Challenge today to see Mia Hamm!!! (We are huge fans). I hope we can meet her!!

I’ll be back at the end of August with more Laura Loves!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Caught in a Storm {Monday Memories}

Welcome to Monday Memories! I really love seeing old photos or home videos of friends and getting to see what people looked like when they were young or hearing about the fun memories that go along with great photos. Sometimes home videos or personal photos are just plain funny! Each Monday I will share a old photo or video that goes along with a personal memory! Click {here} to see past Monday Memories! You can also now enjoy past Monday Memories photos (along with some additional photos) {here}! The link to each post the pictures belong with is in their caption! Enjoy!

One spring/summer day many years ago…my dad decided he was going to take my sisters and I on a bike ride along the canal near my home in NJ. The plan on this sunny day was to ride about 3 miles to a park, have a picnic, and then ride back for about 6 miles total. Now a days that doesn’t seem like a long ride…especially to Dad, who does lots of longer rides with pals now (at a much older age). Considering I was about 8, Leslie about 6, and Linda about 2…this was a decently long ride for us.

Canal Bike Ride

I’ll give you a moment to laugh at my super high socks……all good? Okay…..See that pink bike in the middle? Yup that was my brand new Schwinn bike. I learned to ride a bike without training wheels on the bike with the flower basket that Leslie was riding…but I had recently moved up to my first mountain bike. The big condition of me having a nice new bike? I must ALWAYS take care to put it away in the shed. My parents warned me that “If it gets caught in the rain it will rust!!” ::cough cough:: SCARE TACTIC ::cough cough:: In other words, it was my responsibility to take care of my new bike…and I took that to heart!

It was a beautiful day! We got to the park…had a great picnic…and then started heading back. Suddenly, as we were heading home, an unexpected afternoon thunderstorm hit! It was a very loud storm and it was getting closer and closer! My dad was counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to figure out just how far away the storm was…and it was moving fast. We were surrounded by tall trees and water…and riding metal bikes! To Leslie and I…my dad just seemed to be riding faster and faster away from us! I remember yelling to Leslie, “Linda is soooooo lucky she is on Dad’s bike!”

As we were trying to catch up to Dad in the pouring rain…Leslie misjudged a puddle and fell! I stopped to help her and yelled for her to hurry because we had to catch up to Dad!

It turns out…Dad wasn’t trying to ride faster than us to leave us to fend for ourselves…he was trying to find a good clearing away from tall trees for us! Once the storm got too close for comfort…he stopped the bike…got Linda out…took the picnic blanket out of his backpack…and we all huddled close to the ground away from the bikes under the blanket until the storm passed. Now…we used to love sitting out on our covered front porch watching thunderstorms…but this experience was a bit different…this storm was close, loud, and scary! But I was also quite worried about something else:

“Dad?” I said as we were huddled under the blanket.

“What’s up?” he replied.

“If my new bike gets rusty…will you and Mom be mad at me?”

He just laughed at me because obviously my bike in the rain at this moment was not my fault….and of course it would be easy to dry off before it got rusty!!

The storm passed as quickly as it came and of course it turned out we had stopped pretty close to the car! We got to the parking spot in about 5 minutes…if only we had realized that when we were panicking about the storm. But getting caught in the storm made for a very memorable bike ride!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Women’s World Cup {Monday Memories}

Welcome to Monday Memories! I really love seeing old photos or home videos of friends and getting to see what people looked like when they were young or hearing about the fun memories that go along with great photos. Sometimes home videos or personal photos are just plain funny! Each Monday I will share a old photo or video that goes along with a personal memory! Click {here} to see past Monday Memories!

Yesterday my parents, my sister Leslie, and I watched the Women’s World Cup final between the USA and Japan. It was quite the heartbreaker as the US gave up the lead twice and lost in a messy shootout after 30 minutes of overtime.

I felt odd when I realized that the Women’s World Cup was on this summer. I don’t know why I had forgotten…it is always one year after the men…but this year it didn’t seem very hyped up :-/.

I always find it really unfortunate that people don’t pay more attention to women’s sports…especially in terms of USA’s Women’s Soccer. Firstly…watching women’s soccer definitely has a different feeling than men’s….you still get a lot of the sliding and action on the ball…but there aren’t NEARLY as many “drama queens” in terms of trying to get a penalty out of a tackle. Secondly…our women’s soccer team DOMINATES compared to the men’s team…we are almost always in the final games of the Olympic Medal Matches or in the World Cup. The men’s team rarely makes it past the group rounds…

A few years ago…women’s soccer was really gaining a lot of momentum in popularity. I would have never imagined it would have sort of fallen back under the radar so quickly…

In 1999, I was 14, and the US was hosting the Women’s World Cup! The opening ceremonies and first two matches were being held at the Meadowlands (Giant’s Stadium) which just so happens to be about 40 minutes away from my home in NJ! Now…my whole family was very into soccer. My sisters and I all were serious soccer players playing in sometimes 3 leagues a year! We HAD to go!

We had a whole group from town (and some relatives) join and we did a big tailgate outside the stadium and then went in with a sold out crowd to watch the US play Denmark in the opening match! Of course we had to decorate the van!

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During the tailgate we played some soccer…some whiffle ball…ate lunch and just got really excited to watch the game! There were tons of other people doing the same and we had a great time! But I remember it being really HOT!

My whole family were huge Mia Hamm fans…she was (and still is) my ultimate sports hero. We all had her jersey and we were so excited that we were going to see her play! The first picture is my mom and my sister Leslie (age 12)…the second is Leslie and I…

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The US won that match 3-0 with the first goal being scored by Mia!!! They eventually went on to win the World Cup Title!

I remember knowing almost all of the players back then…Hamm, Foudy, Lilly, Akers, Parlow, Chastain, Fawcett, Milbrett, Scurry! Nowadays I only really know O’Reilly and Wambach. I think both my own attention and the media coverage is to blame. I know I haven’t paid as much attention in recent years…but the media doesn’t cover it nearly as much anymore. In 1999, the Women’s World Cup aired on ABC….this year…on ESPN2. I’m also definitely not the only one who feels that way about “knowing” the current team and what is going on with their international games. The team from the 90’s were fast becoming household names and were all awesome women athletic icons. And if you knew them or not…I think most people would recall the winning shootout goal from 1999…(don’t even get me started on the critics of that event…I personally loved her passion!) That final in 1999 set a record for attendance of a women’s sporting event…and it makes me sad to think that an attendance record from 12 years ago still stands.

I am going to make an effort to keep up again with USA Women’s Soccer. They are a great team to watch and it was so fun watching them yesterday despite the loss. Plus, it is a great time to keep an eye on them since the Summer Olympics are only a short year away!!

Bonus Memory:

The reason I know of O’Reilly despite my recent poor attention to the team…she is from my county in NJ! In fact…we were both awarded the same award the same year (2003 - she was my class year in school)! In our county…each high school named a male and female student athlete senior to represent their town and receive the Greater Middlesex Student Athlete Award. I was the female named from my school that year and Heather O’Reilly was the female from her school. She had just recently been called up to Team USA at the time…so it was really cool to sort of get the same award as her and be at the same dinner!

She now wears Mia’s #9…..I wonder if she was also tailgating at Giant’s Stadium at age 14 in 1999……wearing the same number…

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fun with Sparklers

My family was back home from a week at the shore last night…but we wanted to finish off our vacation by using some crazy long sparklers that my sister Leslie had purchased (in some other state…since they don’t sell anything fireworky in NJ). They were much longer than a typical sparkler and about half way down they would do this sort of cool popping thing for a bit.

We had fun experimenting with them and the longer shutter speed on my standard point and shoot digital camera. I couldn’t really totally control the shutter speed to the extent I would have liked…with it being an automatic camera…even with the nighttime feature it sort of figures out the shutter speed on its own. If it thinks it has enough light it will shorten it…at times that was frustrating but we managed to get some pretty good shots!

Mike & Leslie started us off…Mike makes very consistent circles haha and Leslie was the first one to be surprised by the “popping” section of the sparkler…I LOVE how it looked on camera!

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Then Dad made a few attempts at making a lasso…but the camera shutter speed wasn’t cooperating…(time to save up for a digital SLR)…still made for some cool shots…

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Here are Dad & my shots while the sparkler was “popping”…I really like the “rain” effect you get from that section…I think my back and forth squiggle shot was as it was transitioning back to a regular sparkler…

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Mike had WAY more consistent circles than me!

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The end of my sparkler kept glowing a bit longer than the others…which made for a pretty cool picture too!

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Perfect way to end vacation…back to reality on Monday after a drive back to DC today!

UPDATE: You can see a few more attempts of these sparkler pictures {here}! Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Castles in the Sand {Monday Memories}

Welcome to Monday Memories! I really love seeing old photos or home videos of friends and getting to see what people looked like when they were young or hearing about the fun memories that go along with great photos. Sometimes home videos or personal photos are just plain funny! Each Monday I will share a old photo or video that goes along with a personal memory! Click {here} to see past Monday Memories!

This week my family is on vacation all week at the beach!! I am LOVING it since I haven’t actually taken a week off at the beach in a really long time. We actually used to do it all the time. We would go to either the Jersey Shore (Ortley Beach, Lavallette, Wildwood Crest, Ocean City, LBI) or Delaware, or even Cape Cod! My mom used to really like to switch it up and go different places each year.

My personal favorite things to do on the beach are boogie boarding, playing in the waves, and looking for pretty shells in the morning.…while my Dad shares in the joys of boogie boarding and waves (passing the love along to my sisters and I )….he has another favorite thing to do at the beach…

Dad's Castle Cape Cod

My dad loves to build sand castles! I recently found this picture of one of his castles in Cape Cod. Actually this one was supposed to be a lighthouse (note the white thing on top). He has done other things besides castles as well…but a castle was probably the most common.

His sand castles were sometimes simple, sometimes more detailed, but they always always have a moat…and usually a bridge. This beach in Cape Cod didn’t have big waves but when we would be at the shore in NJ or Delaware, he would build at low tide…and make a path for the water to eventually enter the moat…and then eventually the water would wash the whole thing away…sort of sad but watching to see how it “melted” away was also part of the fun. For this moat in Cape Cod he supplemented with seaweed.

My dad is a perfectionist…and he will spend a LOT of time on his castle…each flip of the bucket is inspected before he moves on. He always uses a little shovel to do the small details. All edges need to be nice and straight. Notice the steps on the side of this lighthouse.

I remember always having toys at the beach. Even when we got older a bucket and toys were a necessity because Dad needs them for his castle! Since we haven’t taken a week off for the beach in a while, this year our sand toys are limited and we think some may have gotten lost. Last week, Mom saw a nice set at Costco and contemplated buying them for Dad!! We decided to just pick some up when we got down to the shore. I may do an update post on what castles he makes this year!

That’s all for now! I’ll be back next Monday with another Monday Memory!

Monday, July 4, 2011

And The Rocket’s Red Glare! {Monday Memories}

Welcome to Monday Memories! I love seeing old photos or home videos of friends and getting to see what people looked like or hearing about memories that go along with great photos. Sometimes home videos or personal photos are just plain funny! Each Monday I will share a old photo or video that goes along with a personal memory! Click {here} to see past Monday Memories!

Happy Forth of July!!! I am currently having an awesome holiday weekend with my sister Leslie! For the holiday, we are going to enjoy food and games on the National Mall with Milo & other friends…and then top that off by hanging out for some great fireworks!! Its one of my favorite things to do in DC each year…

But ten years ago in 2001…I was 16 and living with my family in New Jersey…and we decided to go to a local (large) park and shoot off toy rockets!! We actually took some home video of the event with our then new light weight camcorder! Now…my family is a little…well…kooky…and we couldn’t just take plain boring video of this event. My Aunt Joan decided to play the role of “Rea Porter” – commentator. She did interviews of those doing the launches (which required a push of a button) and provided general commentary and direction. I played the role of the camera man for most of the day so I am not really seen in these clips (although I can be heard).

Leslie and I spent a few hours this weekend editing some of the fun moments of the home video together.The original video is much much longer…but we only picked a bit…our family can be pretty big cheese balls…but I hope you enjoy watching the recap version we put together!

 

July 4, 2001–Rocket Launch

My youngest sister, Linda, was so tiny! She was 10 at the time…while she was then the shortest launcher of the day…she is now 20, in college, and taller than me!

My Dad’s personal favorite part of this video is how in all the launches you can see everyone lean back in unison as the rocket goes up! The best one is when our dog Torre gets up to watch the rocket too!

Leslie was a big goofball back then and was constantly coming up with random little bits to “fade into” or “fade out” from…(aka “checking out the view”).

This was a really fun day and we were all just being goofy and joking around. We had a great time shooting the rockets (I think we did about 6 or 7 total) and it goes down as one of my more memorable Forth of July celebrations.

Do you have any great Fourth of July memories? Feel free to share in the comments. I hope you have a fun and safe Forth of July!!! I’ll be back next Monday with another fun Monday Memory!