My New Years Resolutions for 2008 (goals) Happy New Year!

This year has been a trying one for me. Both for personal and non-personal reasons especially early in the year. Seriously, it’s not good when TopGear is a highlight of your week. There were some good things later in the year though and I appreciate them a lot. Anyway, here are some of my resolutions for 2008. Hopefully 2008 will be a better year than 2007 was overall.

1. Loose 20 lbs. It’s a necessity. It has been creeping on for 3-4 years and it’s time to take it off again. In real terms this means no deserts, walking or running regularly and no snacks from the vending machine or otherwise. I also have to help my cat Zeus loose some weight. He is also a bit overweight for his size and is equally lazy at the moment.

2. Save 5K more in savings again. I did this in 2007 and intend to do it again in 2008. To have some kind of safety net is important and I took the dependable cash flow from work for granted for too long. I am in ok financial shape now but it can always be better. Then eventually it would be nice to have some money invested again but that might not be until 2009.

3. To keep things going along well with Steve. This isn’t as much a goal as a hope.

4. To keep up the HPV  Cervical Pre-Cancer Dysplasia health related follow ups and surgery again when it’s needed later in the year.

5. To take some kind of web or HTML class. I have been saying this for years and there is only so much you can learn through mucking around right? I feel like I need it for work.

6. To be better at time management. This means to get to bed early and get up early first of all, and otherwise just try and be more conscious of the clock. I get into tunnel vision and loose all track of time and space. I am also a huge daydreamer and distracted easily person. Lots to do better here.

7. To learn to cook some things. Not a real specific goal here, but in general cooking at home is intended to be cheaper, healthier (less processed) and a learning experience so I don’t have to rely on takeout and pre-prepared foods all the time.

8. To get back into being more career goal oriented again. I have been happily sitting in the role I am in here for more than a year. I think it’s time to innovate it or change somehow to get to the next level again. This could be a new role or just more changes within this one. I feel antsy again, and that happens about every year or so.

 So that’s it and it’s published publicly so I have to follow through now. Happy New Year to all of you too.

What are some of your 2008 Goals?

Holiday Movie Guide 2007 – Top Movies to see this Christmas

I have been looking at the New Movies being released in the next month and it looks like there will be a lot to see over the christmas holiday break. A lot of big blockbuster movies will be out and hopefully everyone will have more free time around the holidays to go out and see them at the theaters. (or at least kids and teenagers will, adults may still be working) Some of the movies I think look good are:

1. Sweeny Todd (the demon barber of fleet street)- This is an adaptation with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter from a musical. So expect singing, but also expect something unique and dark that only Johnny Depp and Tim Burton could bring you. I wouldn’t expect gore here, but I would expect the odd take on the world that seems to be their specialty and expect some humor too.

2. I Am Ledgend– People are excited about seeing Will Smith in a movie again since this is supposed to be a movie adapted from a graphic novel. That seems to be the golden ticket with the teens and 20’s people of today. Nothing is hotter underground than the comic culture except maybe zombies and vampires and this has those too. It’s scifi genre with a killer virus. Scifi is a genre that Will Smith does well so maybe this will be a sneak attack because people have been kind of bored with Will Smith lately. But I am not so sure about those vampires. I think that’s where this one falls off the edge of believability.

3. Kite Runner – a movie that is small and independent and features cultural differences between the west and the middle east. I think this is a contemporary and relevant story right now and people appreciate the truth in stories that entertain and educate at the same time. We can all relate here.

Online Christmas Shopping Coupons

I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done even though it is not even December yet. I was smart and got online and got things bought the easy way. (without standing in long lines and driving all over the place) I do like shopping online more that shopping in malls this time of year and it’s much more productive. Luckily there are also great sales online and coupon codes for even better deals. Coupon Chief has been a site I have used before that I like because it has coupon codes to stores I actually shop at. One I shop at for myself more than others is Old Navy. They have great deals to begin with and then with a discount it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free. I also shop a lot at Target for gifts because they have something for everyone. I have been able to find sports stuff for my brother, small kitchen appliances for my mom and well my dad is impossible to shop for. Check them out if you are stuck for what to get your family and friends this Christmas. They might give you some good ideas.

Fun Holiday Personality Test Quiz Game – Emo Emo Time

Hah, the holidays are here again, and here come the fun site games and quizzes to match! Maybe you’re Emo about the whole thing? (Emo means emotional for those of us over 30) How about the How Emo am I Test? I know I am more emo this time of year. It’s just frustrating that on top of all your other daily responsibilities with emo test quiz rocketwork and home and sometimes your friends expectations, you have to go be cheery at all these company parties and make like you have it all under control. You have to fake it that all the shopping done, money for all this crap isn’t an issue and that you love spending your evenings and weekends with your coworkers and boss socializing. Sure! It’s great! I’m EMO already!

Holiday Time off

It’s only the end of October but yet the holidays are in full swing. I had to submit my vacation days off today because they are first come first served and many people want the same days off every year and then there is no one in the office when a client needs something in an emergency. So I will be working some of the time between Christmas and New Years this year. One day I will get back to that blissful place where I can take 2 whole weeks off like when you are a kid on Christmas vacation. But it’s not likley that it will be any time soon. We get less vacation as a country than the averages in Europe, but far more than the factory workers in China. Consider us in economic purgatory for the time being.

Happy World Internet Day

I am not sure when this holiday started or if anyone really recognizes it, but happy world internet day. You are within the 1/2 of the people in the U.S. or the unknown number of people in the world that are able to access the internet. Congratulate yourself for that and for a good hair day.

We think that the internet is no big deal now, because most of us use it so ubiquitously and some of us make a living from it. Who would have though that was possible in the early 90’s? How did we ever live without it? I noticed that there are specific characteristics of internet people:

1. We don’t own phone books, address books or other written on paper type records. Some of us are not even getting paper bills anymore, and do all our record keeping online. What this means is that we aren’t record keeping at all really. We get easy access to the info when we need it but businesses hold our info, not us. And sometimes if you want your own information that is more than a few months old you have to pay them to access it. Ouch.

2. We don’t know how to read a map without step by step directions attached. Duh, pre mapquest we all just got lost all the time. Maps are hard to read, directions are easier, and GPS is great, but some day if that won’t be available (even for a short time) we won’t be able to leave the house.

3. We surf aimlessly for hours rather than socializing and it shows. We get less done even though we have tools to be more productive and the internet tests our ability to stay focused and on task and not to procrastinate. It’s just as much a time waster as a productivity and information tool. Hello Twitter.

4. We have generally no idea we are all being watched. Not by people or the CIA, but by companies and Google archiving every click and interest we explore. All in the name of targeting up for ads and studying human behavior online in order to build more profitable (more seductive) websites that sell more stuff. Hello Conversions. 

5. We do have a greater view of the world outside our home towns but at the same time we only search for and look up information that justifies our own personal views. So, instead of getting closer together about ideas and community, we are actually getting farther apart. Writers know that you get more readers and page views if you write something polarized and sensationalized to the extreme and a lot of people (including the media themselves) do this. Then people who are living at that extreme feel justified. I am not sure where this goes, but somehow I doubt it will end well.

So, while we celebrate all the good that has come from the internet today, we should also probably do a reality check if we’re the ones celebrating such a niche holiday. It might be a good time to turn off the computer and just go for a walk outside and call your mom to say hi also.

The new Martha Stewart Blog

It looks like Martha Stewart has really taken to blogging lately. First Martha got a MySpace page and updates it regularly. Then she got a Facebook page and is pretty into that too. Now Martha Stewart has a new standalone blog also which means that there are 3 blogs to update every week or few days. She seems to either have someone with her at all times to document what she does or she is pretty handy with a digital camera and a blogging platform. She seems to have pictures of all her weekends and trips and likes to hear from people about the new things she posts. I hope she reads the comments once in a while if someone else is posting all this for her. But all in all, blogging to the public in a conversational style is a good skill for CEO’s and executives to have. People want to know that these big deal people are real too and have real voices. They are more apt to think positively of them if they have a blog or site like this because it makes them more human and distracts people from the ugly things they have to do and say yes to in the name of profits. So will you be Martha’s MySpace or Facebook friend?

Eco Christmas LED Lights save energy

Just like those squiggley light bulbs we have to use in our lights and lamps we have to change our christmas tree lighting to save electricity too. It’s just not worth the trouble of using energy that creates so much dangerous nuclear waste when we can save it and buy the same products that use less and are better for the environment. I am not a total green person but I did buy a sset of LED christmas lights last year and I liked them a lot. They’re actually brighter than the old kind and use less energy! I didn’t have to use as many strings either. So make it a green christmas in more ways than just the color of the tree. Give the new energy saving lights a try. Because christmas will be here before you know it.

Renegade Craft Fair Chicago December 8-9

renegade craft fair chicagoI have been really getting into lately and now I am buying christmas gifts, baby gifts and christmas cards all online there. I may get all my christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving! One of the cool things about crafters is that they are bringing back the idea of the craft fair and they are making it cool again. There is one coming up in Chicago for the holidays that I would like to go to and check out all the cool hand made stuff. Its the renegade craft fair. Here is the info I got on the email update I got today:

Just a reminder that the deadline to apply for this year’s Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale is just one week away! Late applications won’t be considered – so get yours in before November 1! Visit our website to apply –

The fair is scheduled for the weekend of December 8 + 9 from Noon – 8pm at The Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, which is located at 1419 W. Blackhawk in Chicago. Hope to see you there!

Food Catering for the Holiday Parties

I was at a dinner the other night and was surprised that the people attending were oblivious to the cook’s time and work put in to the dinner and were generally acting very un-enthusiastic about it. And yes, it wasn’t fancy or anything but still, where are their manners? What do they expect? I have no idea but it made me think of what I would do if I ever was in the position to host something and I had to involve food in the event. Two past companies for catering came to mind. I am no cook, not even when my life depends on it, so catering is the most responsible thing to do when food and guests are coming over. One great caterer is LaBelle Catering in LaGrange, IL and another that is good, but not quite as good as LaBelle, is The Perfect Dinner in Oak Park. They both specialize in pre-cooked meals either for a family or catering an event. Labelle has more options, better packaging to retain freshness, better taste with more seasoning and higher prices. The Perfect Dinner has good food, but avoid the chicken and twice baked potatoes because both become really dry when refrigerated there at their store all day. (they cook in the mornings) I have had 3 dinners from there and the salmon and rice was great, the house salad was to die for, and the steak was luscious. It’s just the potatoes and chicken that they don’t season enough or keep any moisture in or liquid. Both places deliver anywhere in the Chicagoland area and with advance notice are great for catering holiday Christmas parties and work related corporate events. The broccoli salad at La Belle with peanuts and rasins is the best salad ever. You have to try that if you call them. Check out both these great food catering businesses this holiday season if you need a caterer.

Holiday Christmas Shopping Target

I am one of those people who like to have all the Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving so that I never have to deal with huge mall crowds or long lines wasting my weekends in December. Plus aren’t there a million holiday parties to go to in December? They start early in the month with the work related ones and then continue to friends, family and your own household. So do yourself a favor and start your shopping now.

The first step is writing a list of people that you have to buy gifts for. If you are unsure if a neighbor or coworker would be getting you a gift or not, err on the side of caution and get them something small even if they don’t end up getting you something. It’s always better to be generous than not.

Then there are a million sites online that can help you shop and some even have online coupons for extra discounts. Most guys on your list will be interested in electronics and gadgets. The best place for those is Amazon and there are Amazon coupon codes here. Target is also a great place for shopping for kids gifts. I have to send some cute gifts to both my honorary nieces this year and plan to look for educational toys at Target. They also have cute clothes and books for kids that are great too. There are some Target Coupons here.

It’s never too early to start planning because when December comes you will have enough to deal with for the parties you have to attend and the food and decoration preparation you do in your own home. Why not get all the shopping done now, and check that off the list first?

Christmas Shopping already? Yes!

Yes, I am thinking about the holidays and shopping already. I have started to make a list of gifts for family and friends but what I actually get will depend on what is available as I save money across the next few months. I know that friends, parents, significant others, siblings and coworkers are hard to buy for depending on what they like and do for fun. I have always taken pride in being able to find unique gifts that are particularly fitting to each person and are exactly what they need and want. So this year should not be any exception. Here are some tips I use for always getting good presents for people I know.

First off, I use online shopping coupons any time they are available. You can do a google search for the store you need when you are at checkout and find what you need to save an extra 10% or get free shipping.

Second, I try and take note of anything that people are interested in as hobbies or sports to find something within the range that they would like. I also listen closely about if they need something mundane but important and they haven’t had the time or money to get it.

Lastly, if they are the person who has it all and nothing is of particular interest, or they live far away, I usually go with a gift card certificate for a store they like. Target Coupons, Old Navy Coupons and Amazon Coupons are always great for most people.

Martha Macy’s Christmas Tree (Marshall Fields Walnut Room)

I was shopping the other day at the State Street Macy’s store (formerly Marshall Fields) and saw all the Martha Stewart products that they are carrying now. I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the materials and the designs were just ok, and not as fabulous as you would expect from Martha Stewart, but I found out something interesting while talking to one of the sales people. They said that Martha Stewart was commissioned to do the Marshall Field’s Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room this year. She mentioned it because the Christmas department of Macy’s was being unpacked right now and they expected it to be open to the public by September. Then in November they have an official Walnut Room Christmas tree lighting ceremony the week before Thanksgiving in November and Martha Stewart is supposed to be the guest of honor and light the tree. I think she must be doing ornaments and tree decorating designs for all the Macy’s stores, but it is nice that Martha will fly all the way out here for the ceremony at Macy’s. I wasn’t to keen on her housewares, kitchen utensils or bedding linnens this time, but I am hopeful that she will do some vintage beautiful designs for the enormous Walnut Room tree.

marshall fields, macys, walnut room, martha stewart, tree, christmasMarshall Field’s Walnut Room has been a tradition for many families for years. Macy’s was nice and left it pretty much the same when they bought the store and you can still see the giant tree in the middle of the room. The Walnut Room is a nice restaurant (with wood paneled walls of course) in the middle of the department store. It is on the 7th floor, on the opposite side of the food court. There you can take a break from your shopping trip and have an elegant lunch or dinner in their dining room. They have a lot of favorites there that have been on the menu for years. For the Holidays and Christmas they take the tables out of the center under the 3 story cathedral celing and assemble a giant 3 story tree. Then a special designer like (Martha Stewart in 2007) is asked to decorate it with custom designed ornaments specially for Marshall Fields and now Macy’s. You can buy the special ornaments too to take home for your tree. The last ones done for Marshall Fields in 2005 were from Swarofski and I bought one because it was the last year we would see the tree as Marshall Fields. Last year was the first year the Walnut Room was open with Macy’s ownership and we went and it was nice. Wedgewood china was the designer of the tree last year in 2006. The entire tree sparkled with twinkling lights and had light baby blue and white ornaments on all the branches. The dining experience at the Walnut Room hasn’t changed much, it was still good. I recommend the pot pie and the Pointsettia drink. (champaigne and cranberry juice)  The service is good and the prices are reasonable considering this is downtown Chicago on State Street.