Friday, December 28, 2012

The Prius is Really Just a Big Shopping Cart

Those of you that know me are probably thinking you are going to be reading a post about my shopping habits. You aren't. I hope this doesn't disappoint you.

I was previously going to title this post The Prius is an Ice Skate but I changed my mind today after maneuvering my grocery cart in the snow and discovering, like the Prius, it's next to impossible. Sidenote: I understand I can get wrapped up in grocery shopping but it was FLURRYING when I went in and there was a good half inch waiting for me when I came out.  Anyways, I digress. The Byrnes are failing winter so far. Seriously, Mother Nature must have taken my Facebook post telling her to bring it on quite seriously, maybe I bruised her ego, because right now we are being taken behind the woodshed by her. (In case Big MN is reading this: I take it back, you win. My big poofy NorthFace coat has NOTHING on you).

When we moved here and everyone gave us that knowing look when we told them we were moved from we always qualified it with the fact we lived in Chicago for 8 (Mary) or 10 (Tim) years. Okay my Iowa peeps, you also win. Apparently we deserved every last chuckle and sidways glance. Chicago has nothing on Iowa. Except maybe decent street crews. I know last year was a mild winter here but did they all but forget how a storm works? In theory there should be so much surplus in the snow clearing budget none of it should have even TOUCHED the streets, right? Okay, sorry- this is not a bash the Des Moines Streets Department post, it's letting the world know that we truly had no idea what we were in for here. St. Thomas made us soft. (Although there is some truth to the whole streets-being-clear thing, just saying....)

When we got our first blizzard last week we got Tim's car stuck not once, not twice but three times. Time #2 resulted in me finding a nice man in a snowplow clearing a driveway to basically plow me out of the street and in front of the driveway. I had a choice between a $10 bill and a $50 bill.  I gave him the 50. Tim said this was excessive. I said I was no longer in the middle of the street, I win. However, for $50 I probably should have had him actually do the driveway because that's where we got stuck the 3rd time...

Being stuck is not limited to the car. Apparently you can get your lawn tractor-with-snowblade-attached stuck as well. That thing is MADE to clear snow and we, well Tim, got it stuck. I guess the blade was old and too heavy so it weighed down the front making it impossible for the back wheels, WITH CHAINS, to get any traction. Namely because they weren't even touching the ground. I'm pretty sure at this point our neighbors had to be looking out the window, pointing and laughing but I wouldn't know it because I was too busy concentrating on not running over Tim as I steered and he pushed me backwards into the garage to park the tractor. In unsurprising news the blade went on Craigslist. In surprising news, someone has already bought it for $100 and we no longer own the thing.

So we sucked it up that night and took the really long (normally 20 minutes) drive to Sears to buy a snowblower (see: stuck in the driveway the 3rd time, above). You know what sucks more than having to buy a snowblower at full price with no other options? Not being able to fit it in the car to get it back to your house and going home empty handed. Which leads me to...

So the Prius is bad, I mean BAD, in Iowa snow. As mentioned, I wanted to name this post something equating the Prius to an ice skate. What I didn't mention was that I felt the ice skate gave the Prius too much credit. At least with an ice skate there's some control! If I'm not stuck (twice so far which resulted in Tim having to put a blanket on my car and back into me on purpose to get me out of the driveway the second time). I have basically slipped and slid my way too and from work the last few days. It's a good thing that there was no one in the lanes on both sides of me on Jordan Creek this morning as I turned off Bridgewood because I used all three of them and still almost ended up facing south in the northbound lanes!

So that's where we are so far this winter- technically a whole 8 days in- I hope we grow our snow legs soon!! Check back regularly to see if I win the 'Mary Needs a New Car' battle!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

That's Right People, I HEART Iowa!!!

Everytime we meet someone new, this is pretty much how the conversation goes:

Inquiring Mind: So you're new to Iowa? Where did you move from?
Tim/Mary: The Virgin Islands
Inquiring Mind: (blank stare for a minute) What the hell made you move to IOWA?
Tim/Mary: The weather! It was 80 degrees in March when we got here and we decided to stay!
Inquiring Mind: Oh, um. Well. I see.

To be fair we used to answer with the real reaon - Tim's job offer - but then it got to be a lot like 'Do you live here' from the tourists on St. Thomas so we thought we'd have some fun. After we get past this opening the conversation usually turns to how long we were down there, why left and eventually to what we think about Iowa. The resounding answer is we LOVE it!

That's right- I love Iowa! I had no idea Des Moines had so much to offer. Outside of the things I was looking forward to (Target, Walmart, a real mall, real grocery stores, Taco Bell) I have been pleasantly suprised by so much. It reminds me a LOT of St. Louis and I loved growing up there so it's a great fit!

It has that great Midwestern feel that I missed on St. Thomas. Even in Chicago people weren't as friendly as they are here or St. Louis or Columbia. Everyone is friendly! We've made great friends across the board and have really enjoyed how quickly we were able to adapt. I credit that to the great people we both work with and the people we have met. We've been here less than 4 months and we've already been fortunate enough to make friends that are amazing. I thought it might be hard to break into circles of friends that were established but we have been welcomed with open arms and had so many enjoyable experiences already!

Another surprise? It's so active here! Des Moines has bike trails that criss cross the city. I can get from my house in West Des Moines all the way downtown without biking in traffic. Let me tell you, after biking in downtown Chicago, that is HUGE! Iowa is home to RAGBRAI where you bike across Iowa over 7 days. We didn't get to do it this year but plan on doing at least a day or two next year. There's the Des Moines Marathon, the Dam to Dam 1/2 Marathon and the Hy-vee Triathlon- all premier racing events. Gyms are top notch and dirt cheap. Well, compared to the gyms on STT, anything is an upgrade. You want to do Crossfit? You can find it. You want to do Kosama? Not a problem. Hot yoga? Got a place. Such a pleasant and much needed change! Somehow I think all this contributed to my crazy decision to sign us up for the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon in Vegas December 2nd...

There is a TON to do. If there's not a festival there's an event- Farmer's Market on Saturdays, Music in the Park, Live Music at Jasper Creek Winery on Thursdays, Zoo Brew, Trivia Nights, Young Professional Connection, iCubs Games (or any of the 3 other minor league teams we have)- the list goes on and on. We have more parks than I could have imagined and they have 'beaches'. I might not be able to see my hands two inches below the water but it's water! We have some great lakes and have even gotten to go out boating with friends.

Did I mention the wineries? We have quite a few around us including one in the heart of downtown. They have an Iowa Wine Passport which earns you stamps/discounts for each one you go to. Those of you that know me know I LOVE free stuff- shirts espeically- so this is right up my alley. Each of them have their own little niche and I can't wait to explore more of them and get more free stuff!

It so CLEAN. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous blog post so if I did I'm sorry but it's obviously still making an impression. Where we live everything is crisp and clean and new. We have the nicest looking Applebee's I have ever seen. In fact, Tim and I were discussing Applebee's and he didn't even realize that it was one- he thought it was a nice non-chain restaurant. Guess that's not doing wonders for them...

Here are a few fun facts I dug up:

* West Des Moines is #2 in large metro areas on the list of 'Secure Places to Live'. I guess this is why Tim has no problem not locking the door. If you're reading this honey, please still lock it!!

* The downtown buildings are connected by skywalk- nearly 4 miles of it to be exact- and is second only to Alberta, Canada in miles of skywalk per capita in North America

* Over 1 million people visit the State Fair every year (this will be my first fair, ever!)

* Remember when Ozzy Osbourne ate that bat? That was in Des Moines!

*  We have one of the shortest commutes (19.1 minutes) for a city of our size (mine is 12 minutes. A blessing compared to my hour and half commute in Chicago)

So all of you that joked about us moving to the land of corn? We actually have a cornfield in our backyard. Right down the street from our Orange Leaf. So there.

PS- I learned, much to my dismay, that I cannot walk across the street and pick that corn for dinner. Not because it's stealing but because it's feed corn, not sweet corn. There's special fields for sweet corn!  Who knew??

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet Laddie: The Not So Efficient Garbage Disposal

For years we have had the most well behaved puppy- and I use puppy loosely. Okay, I use well behaved pretty loosely as well. No, but seriously, Ladde has always been a pretty good dog. Occasionally she'll try to eat another dog but, as she's aged, it's usually provoked.  Raised in the height of Tim's (not to mention his 3 boy roommates) bachelorhood she was brought up to go out once in the AM and once in the PM plus she only eats when she's hungry so her dry food can be left in her bowl. She's never been sick and only sees the vet when she needs her shots or a check up for meds.

Lately she must have decided that her food just isn't good enough and started supplementing it by knocking over the trash. We tried a couple different trashcans when we moved to no avail. Either that dog knows how to step on the pedal or has an extremely strong snout. Struggling with the thought of paying $165 for a SimpleHuman Dog Proof Trashcan we simply turned it around when we would leave until we figured out what to do. Now we never thought about this as being anything more than a nuisance much less potentially deadly!

My mom came to visit just after we closed to help me pull my head out of my ass and get organized (see previous blog for further explanation) and decorate and stuff. We were out on out 462nd trip to WalMart and Bed Bath and Beyond while Tim worked on getting the garage organized. When we came back we found, you guessed it, trash all over the floor. I did a pretty standard scold and proceeded to clean it up and went on with our day. I woke up the next morning to Laddie throwing up at 6:00AM in our closet. Of COURSE she's throwing up, she ate trash!! She ate breakfast with the vengeance and a couple hours later puked all over the floor. (Endorsement: SpotShot is now my new favorite product. My brand new carpets reflect none of this whole fiasco.) I'm starting to get worried and think we should call the vet because  this dog has a stomach of steel and has eaten everything from cell phones to batteries to the couch! Her stomach shouldn't still be upset. Tim says let's give it some time so I do... I cook her rice for dinner and give her a bowl of it which she woofs down - she loves people food. It comes back up a half hour later. Thank god this time it was on the hardwood!! We agree to sleep on it and give it one more meal but I'm pretty concerned.

Monday morning I give her a SMALL amount of rice and she keeps it down. My mom and I leave for our 567th trip to return something to Target and Tim gives her a bit more before he leaves for a meeting. When we get back we have a new place to SpotShot and I immediately pick up the phone and call the vet. They are kind enough to see us in an hour, right after I drop my mom off at the airport. So I load her in the car (Note: during all this the ONLY sign that she didn't feel well was she wanted nothing to do with her ball. Other than that she was still her normal, bubbly self.) and off we go.

Our vet (Endorsement: Dr. Jaime Bunn of Waukee-Clive Vet Clinic is amazing!) felt something he didn't feel a month ago when we took her for her check up and ordered an X Ray. Here is what we found (sorry for the crappy cellphone pic):
That perfectly round white thing just above the black worm-looking thing shouldn't be there...

Unfortunately, Dr. Bunn can't determine if it's a foreign body or a growth so off we go to get an ultrasound.

At this point I'm freaking out (I seriously don't know how parents do it. Kudos to all of you.) and call Tim to meet me at Iowa Veterinary Specialties (Endorsement: They. Freaking. Rock.) He does and off goes Laddie (extremely unwillingly) for her ultrasound and off we go home because they say it'll be an hour or two. We get a call to come back quicker than expected, hop back in the car and meet with Dr. Olsen who tells us he's pretty sure it's a foreign body but it's absolutely blocking her small intestine and she needs surgery NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week but NOW.  The timing couldn't be worse- Tim's scheduled to leave the next AM on business, coming back Thursday afternoon and turning around to leave Friday until Sunday. I leave Thursday afternoon for a business trip for 10 days. It was perfect since I could walk her in the AM and he in the PM. We were having a dog walker come in the mornings and evenings to let her out the rest of the time he was gone. Not so much anymore :( Now she was going to have to stay at IVS and be medically boarded after release from the hospital $$$$$

We meet with the surgeon, Dr. Stauffer, who informs us he's not so sure it's a foreign body. Given her age and that she started digging in the trash lately (apparently that's a sign of something wrong with the liver in older dogs. Who knew?) plus the fact they found some nodules in her liver and spleen on the ultrasound he wanted to be honest and say it was likely a tumor. Great, my heart dropped. What seemed like good news didn't seem so certain anymore. They give us our estimate, we sign our bank account away and go home for the next few hours. Those hours were not so fun. We finally get the call that surgery is over and it was a foreign object (YEA!!!) and they sent off the abnormalities in her liver and spleen to be biopsied (BOO). She was out of surgery and in the hospital recovering- he had pulled out a very large ball of plastic and tape! To the best of our knowledge it is the cellophane and tape off a 4-pack of ground turkey from CostCo that I had divided up earlier that day.

Tim left for his trip at the crack of dawn and I stopped by to visit Laddie that afternoon. That little brat in her cone snubbed me as if I had put her there on purpose! In her typical fashion she had pulled out her own IV catheter so she was going to get to be released from the hospital earlier than expected and I was going to get to take her home Wednesday night!

I'm not going to lie- taking her home was hard. Emotionally and physically. Try getting a 55lb lab with a cone on that can't jump into a Prius. It was so difficult that I actually stopped by PetCo on the way home to buy those 'As Seen on TV' dog stairs to help her OUT of the car. Yeah, that didn't work. They've been boxed up and are waiting to be part of my 621st return trip. It was very hard to see her so clearly alternate between being in pain and being drugged. She just lay there for hours and then I'd have to help her get up and walk her out and help her up and down the stairs to the deck (thank god there are only two). It was pretty clear the doggie gate I bought to keep her from following me up and down the stairs was not going to be necessary. I slept on the couch that night.

I left the next day for Antigua and, luckily, Tim got home an hour or so after I left so she was only alone for a short period of time (I put the trashcan in the pantry by the way). Tim was able to shorten his trip to leaving later on Friday and coming back Saturday evening. and we were super super lucky and grateful of Tim's co-worker and his wife and daughter  who volunteered to watch Laddie while Tim was gone. Wilcox family- if you are reading this you have no idea how much we appreciate it!

This is Laddie and her new friend Hayden:

Since Tim's picked her up she's back to her old self-moving around much more and doesn't have trouble with the stairs. Two nights ago I was able to check my voicemal and had a message from IVS saying that her biopsies came back normal so we are on the right track!

Here is a picture of our new dogproof trashcan:

If only we had paid that $165 up front...

PostScript: We are so super lucky to have an amazing vet who was able to give us an even more amazing referral. Iowa Veterinary Services took care of us like you wouldn't believe. They called often to give us a status and didn't mind when I called with questions- even if it was midnight... Drs. Stauffer and Olsen were completely honest and upfront with us and I couldn't have felt more comfortable leaving Laddie in their care. We are also very grateful to have made friends like Dan and Kristin who were able to take Laddie in and saved us a lot of money not having to medically board her.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Moving: A Guide... Sort of... Okay, not really.

We all know it, there's nothing FUN about moving. Yet, somehow, we (and by 'we' I'm just assuming this happens to everyone) let the excitement of something new overshadow the ugly truth- moving SUCKS. Here's a few things I discovered we should have done/leaarned during this process:

Take your estimated expenses and double, no triple, them: You never know what will happen. Like trying to save $100 on a dog proof trashcan and ending up with a $5K vet bill after said dog eats the wrappers/tape from 4 packages of ground turkey and requires emergency surgery. Or realizing that your mattress should not have been stored standing up on it's end for 2.5 years and the movers forgot to wrap it.

Follow the 'don't' rule- don't need/use it, then don't pack it: We were in a bit of a different situation with all of our stuff being in storage. We really didn't know what we were actually unpacking (that was fun for about 3 boxes) but I really wonder what the heck I was thinking while I was packing. I know I only had 6 days to pack the entire condo AND we thought we were really only going to live on St. Thomas for 6-9 months but can someone explain the thought process I had behind packing a $1.89 (open) bag of FLOUR??? This kind of parlays into...

Become intimately familiar with Craigslist: Who needs an awesome plush king featherbed topper for their bed? Well not us anymore because (see above) we just had to buy a new mattress. What are we going to do with the 64" projection TV that was meant for the basement and can't make the turn? Gets a little too cold here in Iowa to turn the garage into a sitting area! And then there's that mattress!  How about a Playstation 2? I didn't think people even played that thing anymore (again, wth did we pack it?) but three separate people have asekd about the posting. Maybe it's because I'm bundling it with Dance, Dance Revolution...

What can go wrong, will go wrong: And you'd better be able to laugh about it or you're gonna go insane. We measured everything in this house. Except for the door to the basement. Who knew we'd have an abnormally narrow (29") door that an abnormally large couch (32") wouldn't fit through??? Tim has a plan, I'm sure there will be blog post in my future when it happens. We actually got a pretty good story out of one of our wrongs. The brand new washing machine broke on the third load-flashing error codes and door locked. Yes, my washer held our duvet covers hostage- mind you I had a zillion loads to do because everything in storage had to be washed. When I say broke, I mean BROKE. As in  for 4 days until they could deliver a new one. Even the installers couldn't figure it out. They had to take my washer back to the store with the laundry in it and deliver it to me later in the week. Apparently this has NEVER happened before to Nebraska Furniture Mart. I've made my mark :) they know me not by name but as 'the girl whose clothes were held hostage by the washer.' This leads me to...

You will spend many days not REALLY getting dressed: I wore yoga pants and running shorts so many days in a row that when I went to our PO Box to get the mail dressed, with make up on and my hair down the guys that work there didn't know who I was. True story. Ouch.

Things you think you will use right away, nope: Given my love of baths and the fact I wasn't able to take one while we lived on the rock I pretty much bet I would be in the tub that first night!! Not so much. First you have to find the towels, that only took me about a day and a half. Then they had to be washed. See above, they were not in the first two loads. By the time I had towels I was working so feverishly at unpacking that I could barely pour myself into bed at night, much less laid in the tub and not drowned. We'll have been in here for two weeks tomorrow and it has yet to happen.

You will become incapable of making even the simplest decisions: Yes, it's exciting to have new places to put things- especially in the kitchen- but after getting everything out of the boxes (and washed by the way) I was a bumbling idiot. For the life of me I couldn't decide where to put a thing and I just walked around the kitchen island picking things up and putting things back down on the counter. This transferred to most shopping trips- I'd stand in Walmart or Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond and not be able to pick out a freaking spicerack (because FYI spices do not last 2.5 years in storage)! Don't get me started on where to hang things- that would be why there is a pile of wall art leaning against the dining room wall. For all my friends/family who have built their houses I applaud you.

Cashiers & Customer Service Reps will know you by name: I've gotten REALLY good and making the 'loop' of stores here in West Des Moines. I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond, then the JC Penney Home Store, then Target, then Walmart then CostCo. I buy whatever I think will work. Then I take back 90% of it. You should see our credit card statement. Tim can't even yell at me because he likely can't make heads or tails out of it! Now that I've discovered Big Lots (Dad- you were right all these years. I'm sorry) and the Dollar Store I'm going to have to adjust my route...

You bought it, it broke, you'll buy it again: Our final breakage tally: 1 champagne flute, 1 martini glass, 1 wine glass. If you know us, you know we have PLENTY of back up of each. 1 dinner plate, 1 square side plate, 1 round side plate, 1 serving platter and 1 serving bowl. All from our everyday dishes and all still available online at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Woot woot! 1 (out of 2) really cool Ikea lamp that I found on eBay. Not sure if it's the right size til it gets here.. Regardless, not bad!! Of course, I'm not telling you about the things that grew mold on them in storage that were tossed :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Cardinals Fan in Cub Territory

This isn't the first time I've lived in Cubs territory- I spent 8 years in Chicago for goodness sake- but this is the first time (minus one tipsy purchase of a floppy Cubs hat) I'm conflicted about who to root for. Yesterday at the game I found myself unintentionally cheering for the dirty Cubs. Yep, you heard me right. Please just hear me out.

* For starters they aren't really the Cubs, they are the Iowa Cubs- referred to here as simply 'I-Cubs'. Yes, I understand they are part of the overall (evil) organization. Yes, I understand that I-Cubs generally become Cubs. But they are KIDS! I mean it- I referred to half the team as pint-sized. The other half was full sized boys or just full grown. You wouldn't root against kids, would you?

* Minor League stadiums are very intimate which means your voice carries loud and clear. If you're rooting for the other team it is BEYOND obvious. Trust me. It's not like big parks where just the people around you know you're rooting against the beloved home team, here everyone knows. And stares. With evil stares. Now, I'll have no problem rooting for the Memphis Cardinals when they are here. I'm also guessing there will be more people on our side for those games vs. yesterday when it was the Texas Ranger's AAA team. However, yesterday I found myself getting into it with the crowd. I actually had to turn to Tim a couple times and say I forget who I'm supposed to be cheering for...

* It's cheap. I mean cheaper than cheap. Not just tickets- EVERYTHING! And because of that we now have A LOT of tickets. Originally we had bought a Groupon of 10 tickets for $25- that's $2.50/ticket! We were able to upgrade our GA tickets to first row for $5 more. That made our tickets $7.50 - the SAME price as our 24 oz beer we bought! Which leads me to how we got our next group of 10 tickets...For $35 you can join the I-Cubs Beer Mug Club. Yep, I said Beer Mug Club. That buys you 5 tickets and a reusable 18 oz mug. The mug gets filled for $4 and, on Thursdays, your first beer is FREE! Don't even get me started on the cost of suites or the party deck...

* They serve beer until the end of the 9th inning. No joke. We heard last call when there were 2 outs in the 9th. I don't need to further elaborate on this.

* Seeing the kids get so excited to do all things Minor League parks offer is heartwarming- the games between innings, the t-shirts and hotdogs they shoot out of cannons (yes, I said hot dogs), the foul balls (there is actually a voiceover that says 'Give it to a kid' when an adult catches it) and getting balls from the guys in the bullpen. They all look so cute in their I-Cubs gear and it's the innocence that makes me feel bad if I root against them. Not to mention these kids will have a rude awakening if they ever get to go to Wrigley. Why kick 'em while they're down when they don't even know they are?!

* Tony LaRussa was an I-Cub! Yep, had to see it with my own eyes! I had no idea TLR was one not just once, but twice!

Maybe he'll come back to his old stomping grounds now that he's retired!

So that's my argument. What do you think? What if I solemnly swear to never purchase any I-Cubs gear? No matter how many times my mug is refilled..

Friday, April 6, 2012

Make New Friends but Keep the Old!

(If you were, at any point in time, a Girl Scout I bet you just sang 'One is silver and the other's gold' either outloud or to yourself. I know I did! Let's do it in rounds girls!!!)

Okay, now that we're past that... have you ever thought about HOW you make friends? I hadn't, it's always come pretty naturally to me. I think I'm pretty laid back and get along with most people so making friends has never been an issue. Let's look at major life changes in the Timeline of Mary where making new friends was necessary:

Kindergarten (1985): Making friends at this age is pretty natural. You borrow a red crayon or share your cookies and voila.

Move (1990): This one was a bit tougher. Luckily it was only 5th grade and that's generally before girls get catty. At least it was back then. I have a feeling, with the way the world is now, that might start in Kindergarten these days... You hang out on the playground, maybe play some foursquare (the game with the red ball, not the Ap) and make friends in your subdivision by riding bikes and playing freeze tag.

High School (1993): Living in St. Louis and going to Catholic grade school it was a natural choice for me to go to a all girls Catholic high school. In fact, I never thought twice about NOT going to one. So unlike my friends in public junior highs who would travel on to high school with the same group of friends, there were only two of us from my grade school that went to Nerinx. I remember meeting several girls at uniform fitting and when we had to buy our books- actually, that may have been the same day- but until those first days of school it's few and far between. Still, it's school and you find out who has the same interests as you through many channels- your classes, sports, extracurricular activities, mixers, etc.

College (1997): Who doesn't make friends in college? There's thousands of teenagers living on their own with newfound freedom! Making friends is natural- be it in the dorms, during rush, in class or at bars- there's a common ground that everyone is standing on.

Move to Chicago/First Job (2001): I moved with my best friend who I met in high school and lived with 3 of our 4 years at Mizzou plus another one of our friends. We knew a handful of people in Chicago including some family. This was an adventure! My first job was with Hyatt and I made some of my closest friends to date there. 3 of them were bridesmaids in my wedding! One came to visit me on St. Thomas THREE times all the way from San Diego. I'm Facebook friends with, I think, nearly all the people that were in the Sales Office during my two years there. I talk to quite a few of them on a regular basis. And the ones I don't talk to quite as often? I can pick up the phone or run into them and we fall right back into conversation like we just talked two weeks ago. Those friends made in the office also because the core group of friends I hung out with after work, on weekends, etc.

Move to St. Thomas (2009): We were lucky enough to have our friend Billy C. give us the names of his good friends before we moved and they quickly turned into some of our best friends. I honestly don't know what we would have done without Kate or Potter when we got there! Both of them took us under their wings and showed us the ropes which included me getting a job and making a circle of girlfriends that are second to none. I thank my lucky stars that we had the opportunity to experience what we did on the rock and I'll never forget the friendships I made there.

What do every one of those situations have in common? I was in a situation where meeting people was not only easy, it was unavoidable. It's not so much about making friends but having the opportunity to meet them. That brings us to where we are now- having just moved to Iowa. So what's the difference you ask? We're not in a situation where we are thrown in naturally to seeing people on a daily basis. For starters, neither Tim nor I go into an office on a daily basis. Tim has a great team (with great families) but it's always different when you spend 8 hours a day in an office with someone. We know about 3 people here and it's been challenging trying to get together with them- schedules, time, etc. just haven't meshed. Plus, you never want to feel like you're intruding on people's lives. Ironically, one of these people is a girl I worked with back at Hyatt in Chicago! Second, I have a lot of travel coming up with my freelancing. I'm gone end of April/early May, late May through mid-June and end of July/early August. Boo.

So this means we have to make a concerted effort to meet people so we can make friends! How? Well, this is what I've come up with so far:

The Gym: Everyone said joining a gym will help make friends and I get it. It's camaraderie, especially in classes. However, so far, I've found that while people are friendly at the gym and talk before/after classes this doesn't necessarily translate into hanging out outside the gym.

Young Professionals Connection: We joined this group last week and went to the New Member gathering the same day. Seems promising- people around our age who are professionals and active in the community. They have a ton of events planned and plenty of opportunities to get involved. It is whatever you want to make it. I'm looking forward to this one!

Meetup Groups: This one is new to me. I had never heard of Meet Ups before and I can't quite remember how I found them but they are basically groups of people that share common interests. There's one for singles, one for knitters, several for moms. There's one for JUST about everything it seems. The one that intrigued me was the Couples Meeting Couples. We've met several couples here that seem like a blast to hang out with- we have yet to meet one without kids. It is quite obvious that, here in Iowa, we are WAY behind in this area. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we don't want to hang out with our friends with kids but I can't just call them up on a whim and expect them to be able to hang out that night. So as long as this Couples Meeting Couples doesn't have a freaky deaky side to it we will be checking them out soon.

Sports: It sounds like the YPC will coincide with this one. Unfortunately we got here too late for the indoor wiffleball season but YPC does soccer, volleyball, dodgeball, softball- just about anything you'd want to play! I'm looking forward to it!

Church: I know this one will take a good lot of you by surprise but it's true. It's certainly not a matter of whether or not you are a practicing Christian here but what kind. It's happened quite a bit and I'm okay with it. People ask if you're Catholic and tell you that you need to go to St. Francis. I'm anxious to check it out!

Bike Clubs: Biking is HUGE in Iowa. Trails (really nice paved trails) connect soooo much. Tim's boss is part of a group that bikes to a bar every Wednesday. They also bike to a Farmer's Market every weekend. You can bike from our new house all the way downtown without setting foot (wheel?) in traffic- awesome! My bike will be here Wednesday and we just have to purchase a new one for Tim. We kind of forgot it was stolen out of our garage in Chicago before we moved...

All in all we have a lot of options and I'm excited to explore Des Moines (did I mention there are 15 wineries with an hour!?!?) and all it has to offer. Of course, I'm always up for suggestions! And visitors from my 'old' friends :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What a Workout!

I'm not talking about the gym but rather the workout our credit card got this weekend when we went shopping for a few things. By few I mean 3 rooms worth. Oops. (Sidenote: I did join Aspen Athletic Club here in West Des Moines and couldn't be happier. Yea for BodyPump, Zumba and More!!!) House shopping is slowly (wait, who am I kidding?) quickly becoming my favorite way to spend free time! There's nothing like picking out an appliance that is new and has all these features and buttons to play with! Or living room furniture and imagining the pillows, wall art and miscellaneous items that will pull the room together. Couple those things with the fact we have both a Homemaker's and a Nebraska Furniture Mart (the MECCA for home shopping) and I'm in heaven. Here are the results of our shopping extravaganza!!


We actually thought we had this stuff all picked out and were just stopping by Homemakers to look at it again before buying it. Turns out we, and by we I mean Tim, found something weliked more. The cool thing about the couch is that chaise lounge is reversible so we can put it on the left or the right. That pretty much sold Tim and he was so excited about it I couldn't say no. So this collection was purchased.

Luckily the stitching matches the ottomans on the coffee table we already purchased!

It got delivered today but the guys at our mailbox (Going Postal in West Glen) are SUPER nice and are storing that box along with our TV that was ordered off eBay and delivered in 4 days. I forget that things can make it places in under 10 days without going Priority!


The kink that the above put in is that the kitchen table and chairs were part of the same collection as the original family room furniture. We decided we don't care.

Thank you, Julie Fromm, for being there to answer my urgent text about what color chairs to go with. I desperately needed advice for someone with an artistic flair of which I have zero. We went with two Stone and two Salsa. Luckily the Stone (the light tan to the right of the red (Salsa) colored chair) marches the ottomans under the coffee table which matches the stitching in the family room collection (kind of like 'Going To Grandma's House and I'm taking something that begins with...)

Next it was on to appliances which equals fun gadgets!!

This is our refrigerator. I don't really know what to say about it. It's a Frigidaire. It has a really

cool on-the-door water/ice dispenser that has all these digital options. I can't wait to use it! Oh, and the price tag was wrong so we got it for $300 less than we should of. Score! Takes so little to please me sometimes.


This might be what I was looking forward to the most. After living on St. Thomas and having an all in one washer/dryer that never really dried anything I can't wait to have a real grown up washer and dryer!! To be fair, I was lucky to have anything on STT. I should be grateful that I didn't have to drop off my laundry or waste days off at the laundrymat.

The washer has some new-to-me technology that incorporates a fan so if you forget you washed the clothes and they sit there a 'fresh fan' comes on and keeps them from getting musty. Awesome! The dryer has steam so I'm confident I'll be doing MUCH less ironing. Or, at the very least, a lot less dropping-the-clothes-off-at-the-dry-cleaner-just-so-they'll-press-them runs. Oh- and it has a shoe rack. A SHOE RACK! Why you ask? And I did because I had no idea what it was- to put your tennis shoes on so they don't whack around the dryer! Or sweaters or delicates you don't want tossed around. Again, awesome.

Delivery is scheduled for all of this for the 12th and I cannot wait!! Of course, since the truck is coming on the 11th I guess I'll have to make a path for the delivery guys... Now, off to convince Tim our yard is not big enough for a riding mower, Again, a battle I'm quite prepared to lose. Not that I'm going to put up much of a fight. I'm picking my battles- mama wants some wall art!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Overwhelmed... With Convenience!

Okay, I'm not sure what I expected out of Des Moines or what I truly pictured it being like here. Fine, yes, I do know what I pictured- a small town feel with older houses and lots of fields everywhere.

I understand it's the state capital but, let's be honest, so is Jeff City, MO and there ain't much there... Sue me for being stereotypical!

I didn't expect a beautiful downtown much less one filled with people out having a good time on St. Patrick's Day. I didn't expect an AWESOME parade that was over 2 hours long and had one float HANDING OUT BACON! I'm told by my friend Kara, who grew up here, we are about 5 minutes away from the HQ of the Pork Society of Iowa AND they serve a pork chop on a stick at the State Fair in August. Wow. No more turkey bacon for the Byrnes! Which is fine, I read it's one of the things making Americans fat anyways....

We've been here a week now and I'm absolutely in love with the city of West Des Moines (yes, Des Moines is big enough to have a West designation thank you very much). It's an amazing city (mmm hmm, I said CITY) with SO much to offer. Coming from St. Thomas I am literally overwhelmed with all it has to offer! I've tried to go grocery shopping but I'm not sure where to start- Walmart? Target? Dahl? Hyvee? Trader Joes? Costco? I HAVE OPTIONS!!! And I can use COUPONS! I've found myself going multiple times because I keep forgetting things and it's an easy in and out experience. This is very exciting to me and I've actually had to upgrade my Shopping List Ap on my iPhone in order to help me get organized (ListPro in case you are wondering)!

Everything here is so new... and nice! I mean NICE. Right around us is everything anyone could want- bars, restaurants and the nicest mall I have ever, I mean ever, been in. There's several gyms to choose from and they all offer amazing things- pools, new equipment, group fitness, tanning- at a pretty ridiculous price.

Even the gas stations are nice, new, all-brick buildings!

We've even found a house! It is actually the first one we looked at. The real estate agent thought we were nuts (actually 'people who just wanted to look around a new development and waste her time' to be exact) as we called from the driveway and asked her to come open it for us to look at. She clearly was happy with us when we signed our offer letter 24 hours later though! We know it's crazy to buy the first place you look at so we did our due dilligence and looked at 10 more and toured 3 more but we kept coming back to the first place we saw. I have a rule when I shop- if I find something, look around and keep coming back to it buy what I caught my eye first... so we did and we close April 11th (sooner if our loan officer can get thru the red tape that is the IRB, poor lady is getting a lesson in how the VI operates).

Now it is time for the fun stuff to begin- the shopping for the house! I've relegated most of our Chicago furniture to be basement worthy so there's lots to do and the possibilities are endless! There's an awesome store called Homemakers that is the mecca of furntiture stores. We found basically our entire living room set and kitchen table & chairs there in under an hour. My list of things to buy just keeps growing and growing and soon we will be playing 'item survivor' in order to prioritize things. We ordered our first item on line last night- a SUPER COOL coffee table with fun ottomans that double as storage and seating underneath.

Trust me, it rocks.

Well, now we are off to St. Louis for a quick trip in and out. Tim has some training at AB HQ and I have some movers to meet and miscellaneous items to pack! During that oh-so-exciting drive I'll be figuring out what to do with this blog. Obviously it's time to change the background and update the bio but I'm thinking I'll keep the name. Cornfield Telegraph just doesn't have that ring to it... nor is it even true!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Ultimate Island Bucket List

Well, the time has come for us to say goodbye. As I've watched friends come and go over the last 2.5 years I've also watched them scramble to try and complete their bucket list in time. Guess who's on the other end of that now?? We are down to less than 4 days to get a whole bunch of things done and food eaten!!! Here are the things that we've found to be essential to do before you leave this island! Anything in bold has been completed. I tried to do this last week with parentheses and X's but apparently that screws with HTML!





Antigua (I get to check this one off 4/26 at least!)



Hans Lollick

Hassle Island (now that the Real World is over there, I don't care to go anymore)

Jost Van Dyke

Norman Island

Puerto Rico

Saba Rock

St. Barths

St. Croix

St. John

St. Kitts/Nevis

St. Lucia

St. Maarten



Virgin Gorda

Water Island

Special thanks to Cameron and his amazing catamaran, Heron, for taking me out on my very first boat trip and getting me addicted to being on the water; Adrian Hale for putting up with our drunk butts many, many Sunday Fundays and Nicolini for flying us all over the Caribbean. Without you guys we never would have seen so many things!!


18 Holes at Mahogany Run

8 Tuff Miles

99 Steps

Bar Wars

Baths at Virgin Gorda

Botanical Gardens at the Great House

Bowling at VI Christian Ministries

Butterfly Farm

Buy a Lottery Ticket

Circumference the island on a boat

Coral World

Day Pass at Sugar Bay

Dinghy Rental on St. John

Drake's Seat

Drink at the Car Wash Bar

Duffy's Ladies Night

Eco Kayak Tour

Experience the BMV

Fed the Pigs Beer on St. Croix

Have a Banana Dacquiri at Mountaintop

Hike all the trails on St. John (have 4 left, I WILL get this done before Friday)

Hike Paradise Point hill

Jumped off of Willy T

Kontiki Party Barge

Napped in a Hammock on Jost

New Horizon's Boat Trip

New Year's Eve at Foxy's

Night Snorkeling

Obtain Health Card


Parrot Club

Red Hook 500

Ride the Ferris Wheel at Paradise Point

Ride the Tram to Paradise Point

Ritz Pool

Santo Bar

SCUBA Certification

Skydiving in Puerto Rico

Sibs for One (not actually the bar but physically having one at Sibs)

Sleep on a boat

Slide on the abandoned boat off Wyndham

Snorkeled the Indians

St. Thomas Caribbean Cinema

Sunday Funday on Jost

Sunrise on the East End

Sunset at Mafolie Hotel

Sunset at Paradise Point

Swim With a Stingray

Swim Up Bar at Limetree

Tortola Full Moon Party
Vegas Night

Walk From One End of an Island to the Other

Walked Peterborg Point

Water Island Movie Night

Whale Watching



Amigo's ($25 AYCE and AYCD? Duh.)

Banana Tree Grille

Barefoot Buddha (I can get my PB/Chocolate Frozen Cafe & my mail? Yes, please!)

Bella Blue

Beni Iguana

Betsy's Bar

Blue Orchid at the Great House

Brook's Bar

Buddha Sushi (Pre-8 Tuff Carb Loading host 2011)

Cafe Amalia

Cafe Amici

Cafe Roma

Caribbean Fish Market

Caribbean Saloon (specifically Terry Fries!!)

Castaway's Happy Hour


Coco Blue

Coconuts (best hot dogs on island)

Craig & Sally's

Delly Deck

Dog House Pub




Fat Turtle (specifically Fat Turtle Fridays)

Fatty's (specifically Texassippi Rib Night)

Fishtails (bottomless hibiscus, 'nough said. Pre-8 Tuff Carb Loading host 2010)

Grand Cru


Grille Room at Mahogany Run (wild mushroom risotto... tear)

Havana Blue
Heidi's Honeymoon Grill


Hospital Cafeteria

Hubby Bubbly

Hull Bay Hideaway



Island Time Pub (not sure how to survive without that pizza)



Kokapelli (Pre-8 Tuff Carb Loading host 2012)

La Tapa

Latitude 18

Life's a Breeze Pool Bar

Lotus (thanks, James, for PB&J/Fruity Pebbles sushi!)



Molly Malones (where Penny was ALWAYS our waitress)

Morgan's Mango

North Side Bistro

Oceana (best. chef. ever. Jen Litwin)

Old Stone Farmhouse (going tonight, I'm crossing it off)


Pie Whole

Pizza Amore

Quiet Mon


Room With a View Happy Hour

Schnitzel House


Skinny Leg's (Mmmm... GTO...)

Soggy Dollar Bar

St. Thomas Dairy

Sydney's Peace and Love

Taco Hell

Tap Room

Texas Pit BBQ

The Cellar

The Rock

Tickles (thanks for the golf balls, Lou!)

Uncle Joe's BBQ



XO (gosh I am SO going to miss that grilled cheese)


Wow. Just when I feel like we've accomplished a lot I realize there's a lot to come back to do/see/eat/drink! Thank you to Ashely Armitage for sharing her bucket list to help jog my memory! It's hard to believe our time here is almost over. I hope to be able to cross a good lot of these off the next few days, wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It Was Supposed to be a 3 Hour Tour!

Okay, so maybe not 3 hours but New Year's on Jost van Dyke was definitely NOT supposed to be an overnight adventure this year. Tim, myself and our friends Rachel, Coco and Josh headed over to Jost via Dolphin Water Taxi's round trip (ha!) boat transfer. Miller & Cruzan sponsored the free drinks on board and Greg was kind enough to give us 4 free spots. I like to think that was in honor of Coco's birthday but whatever! Anyways, we went over early- 1:00 PM- so we could spend the day on White Bay before heading over to Foxy's for their party. They were super organized with wristbands telling you what time you were coming home, drink tickets, etc. He also said if we had any questions he'd be standing by the Jost Van Dyke sign starting at 9:00PM. I was highly impressed- just not used to that kind of thing on STT!

We were on our own private transfer and I think this is where the day started to get interesting! Because we had all of our stuff with us (read coolers, clothes, cameras, phones, etc) we really didn't want to take a taxi from customs by Foxy's to White Bay so our Captain agreed to let us out over in White Bay. Problem was the water was so rough he wasn't able to get us close enough to shore for us to get out and touch to keep our stuff out of the water. What to do, what to do. Oh, I know! Drop us off on the trampoline set up in the middle of the bay! Honestly, whomever said it, it was a great idea except for the fact we were then no better off than we were on the boat. But at least our Captain was hightailing it back to St. Thomas to get the next group over, right? Oh, and did I mention he left us with NO instruction on where to pick up the ferry back at 2:30 AM?

The man that runs the trampoline was quite confused to see 5 people literally throw their crap on his livlihood and jump out of a boat onto it. And we were quite confused as to how to get our stuff to shore. I've never seen a West Indian move so fast as he did to swim out and yell at us to pay our $5 for jumping on the trampoline. We explained we didn't want to jump, we wanted off and could he help us. Somehow, someone convinced him (god knows how much money we actually ended up giving him) to go get his kayak and kayak our stuff in. Obstacle overcome!

We truly enjoyed our day in White Bay. This here is Coco trying to persuade this guy to give her his crown since it was his birthday. He let her pose for a picture but wouldn't let her keep it. I hope he struck out.

There was plenty of drinking and dancing and fun had by all. We ran into plenty of people and joined in a big group photo of everyone on Jost. Wonder what happened to that?

And then we saw this girl:

I'm sorry, are you 19 years old and wearing mom jean shorts over a tank suit??? This girl truly confuses me. She was young, would have looked just fine in a bikini but, the mom jean shorts? Really??

Moving on. Day quickly turned to night and we realized we needed to get our butts over to the other end of the island and have some dinner. Hmmm... no taxis to be seen and we weren't walking (by this point we had shed most of our gear by consuming it). Being the ever creative people we are Tim flags down the first local we see and we shove 5 of us into his Suzuki. I'm not 100% sure if he agreed or we just got in but regardless he took us over to the Foxy's side of the island and we gave him some cash. Turned out he had showed up at Soggy Dollar to pick up his girlfriend who was getting off work. Hope she wasn't mad that we kidnapped him...

We had a great time at Foxy's doing some more dancing and playing with friends. Here are some of our favorite St. Thomas bartenders imported to England for the night. I'm guessing the Jager was flowing behind the bar as well as on the other side from this pic :)

As we were on the 2:30AM ferry we started heading towards the ferry dock at 2:15. Now, I know we were a bit tipsy but there was NO boat there. This is a big yellow and black and white ferry that holds hundreds of people and was supposed to take 75 people back to St. Thomas and we CANNOT find it. We don't even see anyone walking towards the dock! It starts to rain so we go back to the customs dock and try to see if maybe we were misinformed or if we can find anyone. Remember Greg who said he'd be at the sign beginning at 9:00PM? Yeah... guessing he got on the 2:30AM ferry 'cuz he ain't there! It's official, we are stuck on Jost. We hung out on the dock with some friends whose engine stopped working and were stuck as well. Leigh Goldman fed me a hot dog- god bless you Leigh- and we chilled under some plastic tarps in the rain. One of our friends showed up for his last pick up of the night around 4:30AM and said he'd take us back... for $60/head. Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I understand this is your business and you're probably grouchy for being sober and taking drunks back and forth all night but a little sympathy or a deal would have been nice... Eventually all of our dock friends went home and we were left by ourselves. It's close to 5AM at this point. We are defeated. See the defeat in Coco here? Happy birthday lady!!

We decide to sleep in the ferry terminal. Now, if you've never been to Jost on the ferry the terminal is no more than a shack. The below picture shows the corner Tim and I slept in :) The sun woke us up around 8:00AM and we wait, with a large group of other people mind you, for the 9:00AM ferry. We pay our $5 departure fee and sit on the dock until the big boat comes. This time we found it. We try to board the ferry and apparently it's more than $5 and we are missing tickets even though we are on the manifest. It's not just us, it's about 1/2 the group. In the chaos of it all Tim at least is able to sneak on the ferry, the rest of us pay $50. Guess we should have just sucked it up and paid the $60 4 hours earlier huh?

All in all it was a great New Year's Eve and I enjoyed the adventure. However, the next day when Dolphin Water Taxi proudly posted they moved 220 people successfully to and from Jost on New Year's Eve I couldn't help but laugh and think, nope, you moved 215 successfully and clearly the other 70 people that were travelling with us at 2:30AM had no problem finding the big ferry...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

She's Baaaaa-aaaack!!!

Has it really almost 11 months since I've updated this blog? Wow, what the heck happened to me? I'm sorry!! Well, the important thing is- guess who's back? Mary's back! Back again! In many senses of the word. Not only did I take 11 months off from the blog, I took a 3 month hiatus from St. Thomas period. That time away gave me a lot of perspective. It's one thing to move here and take the good and take the bad (sing it with me everyone, you take 'em both and there you have... the facts of life) but it's another to go back to America, get all Americanized again and then reimmerse yourself in island living. So what am I feeling? Here goes...

I missed my amazing island family. I am SO lucky to have made the friends that I did. They were nothing but supportive when I left and I was a little nervous it wouldn't be the same when I came back. But in their amazing selves, it's been great. I haven't gotten a chance to see everyone I've wanted to yet but know that I will see each and every one and get/give an wholehearted hug!!

Right now I'm missing Starbucks. Hi, my name is Mary, and I'm addicted to Skinny Peppermint Mochas. For a girl who hoarded her Starbucks gift cards from Abbott suppliers for 5 years they certainly disappeared quickly once I discovered Skinny Lattes and Mochas! (Quick shout out to Fred Johnsen and Todd Minske with Advanced Media Solutions for keeping me properly caffeinated lately!!) I also miss their internet. I'm currently sitting at a coffee shop where I had to order a beer to get an internet code...

I missed hiking on St. John. For some crazy reason I got it in my head that part of my St. Thomas bucket list included completing all the trails on STJ. I had done a fair amount but have a LOT to do still. So Tim and I went over and did a bunch in one day- including Johnny Horn (Kate Atwell, if you're reading this, you are right- it's a bitch. I was actually thinking for awhile you were losing it, it was easy, then came the up part). Thank god Tara and I did Reef Bay already...

I miss Club Fitness. I never in my life thought I'd miss a gym but now that I'm here, I really miss my classes!! And the constant 65 degrees that place is kept. I'm not working out nearly as hard here at the gym and sweating twice as much!

I missed flip flops!!! You should never need to put those suckers away and I'm super happy to have them back in my life. One of my biggest adjustments to STL was putting on socks. I'm not kidding.

I'm already missing live sports but, given the time of year, that shouldn't matter. I was home when it counted- when my Cardinals won the World Series! I had never been to a playoff game before and suddenly found myself cheering on the Redbirds at the NLDS, NLCS and World Series live and in person. Heck, I even watched my Rams beat the Saints at the Dome before the Cardinals Victory parade. Yep, I was there for one of their two wins. What do you think STL, am I good luck? Not only did the weather hold on to unseasonable warmth from the MINUTE I got home (PS- the bottom dropped out New Years Day, coincidence I left three days earlier??? I think not...) but the Cardinals hung on to do the unthinkable this year! Just sayin'...

I missed running into people I know everywhere. Now, STL is pretty small and I ran into a lot of people during the post season and even now at Corner Pub, it's not the same as here! I'm wondering if this is a novelty though and will run off sooner rather than later? This also applies to word of mouth and helping people out (thanks Jessica Hume for getting me a bartending gig for your holiday party!!).

I'm sort of missing the reliability of the states and the little conveniences. I KNEW I should have ordered a glare screen for my Kindle before I left... and I've already grown tired of crappy internet service (see Starbucks paragraph, I'm here b/c Sprint BLOWS), dropped AT&T phonecalls and no water pressure. I've been lucky (pause, knock on wood) to not have experienced a WAPA blackout yet. I'm honestly not sure how...

I missed the water. I missed how it was so easy to go out on it or go to it. It was one thing I never took for granted and I certainly still don't. The views, the options, the good times had on it can never be erased or replaced.

I miss my stateside friends!! I'm lucky to have them in my life too! What another amazing group of people. I'm seriously such a blessed girl to have so many incredible people in my life. I miss my family. Nothing replaces your family and I am lucky to have such a large, crazy, welcoming one. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins- you are all part of the reason I am the person I am today and I can't express my gratitude enough!

Okay, now I'm getting sappy so it's time to end this post. Once I get my freaking Sony Cybershot software downloaded stay tuned for the big NYE on Jost post. Trust me, it's a laugh and a half!