Monday, March 31, 2014

Thawing Out.

It's been a busy and fulfilling few weeks since I last posted.  This past weekend, the conference that I have been planning finally happened, and it went very well.  It was held at La Salle University, which is why I was chosen to help plan, and the university really went out of its way to impress the attendees, or at least my friends.  We had a lovely reception in the campus art museum, which some of my art history friends really enjoyed.  Everyones presentations went off without a hitch, and we all had a great time.  I also won an award for the best graduate student paper.  Winning at La Salle was really special, and I'm flattered by the recognition.

Me and Dr. Bronner, one of my profs at PSH, as well as the namesake of the award.
Planning the conference, plus preparing my own presentation, and assisting with some other research at school really took it out of me.  When I got home on Saturday, I took a three hour nap.  I could barely stay awake the rest of the day.  On Sunday, my parents offered to host us for dinner and babysit so Jason and I could see The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan, and I've been looking forward to this movie.  It was perfect timing.  The snow and sleet here really bummed us out, but we had a chicken and mashed potato dinner with strawberry shortcake for a touch of summer.

Today, I finally got back to 40 Days, 40 Bags.  I did clean out the cars and did a little organizing here and there in the last few weeks.  In cleaning out the closet, our bedroom, the bathroom, and the cars, we threw out at least 8 bags.  I have another pile to take to Goodwill, but I'm waiting to do that in a larger trip.  Today I tackled the pantry.  I'm almost always embarrassed by the food waste in our house, and the pantry reminded me of it.  I got rid of one trash bag, and I took another bag of candy and little treats to school for our sadly empty snack bucket.  I have to grocery shop today, but the list is pretty short, and mainly just staples that we ran out of in the last week.

On Wednesday, I think I'm going to start on the attic.  I don't know how much we'll throw out, but it needs to be organized.  We also have a lot of blank walls, and the photos upstairs will definitely help eliminate those.  Finally, the books are all kinds of out of place.  I need a better solution for E's books in the family room, and I need to gift some to friends at school.

We started potty training over spring break, and while we had a few initial set backs, we are now staying dry during the day with some consistency.  We haven't tackled night training yet, since sleep is the highest priority in our house for the next month or so.  

I hope spring is finally arriving to where ever you are.  It's definitely doing wonders for my mood.

- M.

Monday, March 10, 2014

40 Days, 40 Bags: The Beginning

Of all the years for Easter to be late, this was not the ideal one.  I kept looking at March 5 on my calendar as if it was actually the first day of spring, rather than Ash Wednesday.  The weather has been warmer too, so it all came together nicely in the end.

As I said in my last post, I got rid of three bags before the 5th, mainly because the time was right.  My sister was here, and she could take the bags with her right away.  Here is what my "schedule" looked like:

March 5: My clothing (seemed like an obvious choice)

March 6: School office.  I share an office with four other women, so I really just took home things that no longer needed to be there, and I cleaned out my drawer.  A few clever (and free) organizing tricks later, I'm really making use of my small space.

March 7, 8, & 9: I was so behind on basic house cleaning (the time right before midterms is REALLY stressful), so I dedicated three days to catching up.  I did laundry, vacuumed, cleaned furniture, mopped, and got rid of the stuff that was cluttering up the major dumping spaces.

March 10: Bathroom. I replaced the shower liner, purchased a shower rack, and reorganized the whole set up.  It looks like a whole new space!

I'm finishing up my bedroom and our small closet tomorrow, and possibly the windows.  It's supposed to be really nice tomorrow, but snow later in the week, so maybe I'll save the deep clean of the windows for another day.

The house already looks 1000% better, and I can concentrate again.

- M.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Willing Spring to Arrive.

With the impending storm (this is getting old), I had to do something to make it seem like spring.  Even though March 5th is really the beginning of Lent, I started my 40 Days, 40 Bags spring cleaning / purging today.

My sister spent the day with us (my parents heat went out, and it won't be fixed until at least Monday), so she and I went to the mall.  I bought a few essentials (dress pants, a dress for a wedding), but when I got up to my closet, I realized how full it was and how few things I wore.  I already had a big bag of things from my dresser, and decided to let my sister go shopping in my closet.  She took home two huge shopping bags, and I still filled another shopping bag to go to charity.  I re-organized my closet (well, as much as I could), and cleaned up my drawers.

So, 3 bags down, 37 more to go.  I have a feeling I'm actually going to hit 40 bags this year.  Our house needs to be purged in the worst way.  Last year, we had just moved the year before, and I had done a very effective purge before the move.  This year, we just need to organize and streamline.

It makes it feel like spring is just around the corner.

- M.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snowman Snow.

I'm the worst sometimes.

I don't like the cold, and so it does not cross my mind on a snow day to take my kid outside, usually until its too late.  If he asked, I'd go out.  He doesn't ask.

Today my mom (who bought E both his snow coat and snow overalls) asked if he had been out yet.

Yet?  I gotta take this kid outside.

It was really fun, and I don't know why I'm so opposed to getting outside.  I just don't think about it until the weather gets nice.

We shoveled (for the third time), watched the plow, made snow angels, and built a snow person.  We went inside only when his gloves were soaking wet.  We weren't ready, but that was a sign that the time had come.  Also, nap time was being seriously postponed.

I enjoy snow days, especially if Jason can stay home too, but this winter has made them less novel, and therefore, far more annoying.  We are supposed to get TWO more storms before next week.  Ugh.  I'll just remember the fun of this snow day; buy bread, milk, and eggs; and make sure the snow pants are dry and ready for our next adventure outside.
E standing with "Silly Snowman"

He enjoyed throwing the snow up in the air.
- M.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dreaming of Spring

I thought I would start this post with some scenes of summer to help us all through this yucky winter.  We've had storm after storm here, which has taken away all the novelty of snow.  It also makes me realize that I need better boots, but that's neither here nor there.  We haven't played in the snow because in addition to the snow, it's been very VERY cold, and not fun to go out in.  We are warm weather people.

The other thing that gets me through the end of winter is my 40 Days, 40 Bags house clean out.  When its done, it's wonderful to throw open the (clean) windows and let the sun in.  I started doing it in 2012, when I first discovered the blog Clover Lane.  It was very helpful before a move, and now that we are settled in a house, it keeps things under control.  We have no idea how we ever fit this stuff in an apartment.  Last year, I did some of the challenge, but I was dealing with health challenges and school.  This spring, I do not have as stressful as a semester, and hopefully I'll remain healthy.  

What is 40 Days 40 Bags?  Well, it takes place over the course of Lent (hence the 40 actually gives you Sundays off), and the goal is to evaluate and clean your house, freeing your mind up for higher pursuits.  Rather than giving something up, which doesn't have an impact on me, I choose to prepare myself for spring and Easter.  

Step One: Divide your house / life / dorm / apartment into 40 parts.  Include your car, computer, garage, and even your office at work.  I will post my 2014 list soon, but you can see the older posts under the word cloud.  

Step Two: In each area, take EVERYTHING out.  Clean, repair, evaluate.  Try all your clothing on.  Clean everything (even the inside of your drawers), and decide what stays, what goes, and what gets donated.  Sarah at Clover Lane suggests having certain supplies on hand, such as black trash bags, paper towels, and Magic Erasers.  Be sure to touch everything.  Stop putting those decisions off.

Step Three: Put everything back.  This can sometimes be the most difficult part.  When I clean out my craft closet, I have to detangle everything and then figure out what is the best way to keep it all in order.  Clothing is easier.  The kitchen is near impossible.  

By Easter, you'll have deep cleaned the entire space you dedicated to looking at.  It's a great feeling. 

Spring can't come soon enough!

- M.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

5 Things.

I love to make lists.  I enjoy crossing things off, then throwing the list away.  It's very gratifying.  However, I tend to make lists that never get thrown out, because they are overwhelming and half of the things never get done.

I picked up a trick from Real Simple wherein you limit yourself to a to-do list of so many items, usually 5 - 7.  According to them, anymore than that is rather ambitious.

For example, my list today was as follows:

1. Grocery shopping
2. Workout (angry eyes kept me from this in a trade-off for self-care)
3. Read "Tales from Facebook" (I read at bedtime)
4. Read "The Irish-Americans" (see above)
5. Crochet (just after I finish this post!)
6. COMM 150 syllabus

I use a Moleskin weekly / daily planner.  On one side, it has the days of the week, broken into two sections M-F, and the other side is just lined paper.  In the back, there are about 5 pages of lined paper as well, for long-term lists.  I use those pages to write out my 40 Days, 40 Bags goals, research projects, and crochet to-do lists.  I've used this planner for about 5 years, and I don't plan on switching anytime soon.

How do you keep the to-do's straight?  What methods do you use to keep productive?

- M.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lean and Mean in 2014.

Our word of the year: Simple.  Streamlining things always makes me happy, so that should help make the year a success.

Goals for 2014:

1. Continue working on a healthier lifestyle: Despite some health problems (eyes!), I have been exercising more and being more conscious of what goes in my body.  That said, I need to double my efforts and see some results.  I want to be back in shape before I even consider having a second child (which won't happen until at least 2016, so I have some time to enjoy being in shape).  I already put together a school schedule that allows me to go to the gym twice a week, and I got a ballet fitness video for Christmas!

2. Complete 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge: I did a half-hearted version of this, but February and March were very challenging months.  The first thing to go was the 40 Days challenge, which takes place over Lent.  It's a way to purge and cleanse your life before Easter.  It's my annual Lenten challenge, rather than trying to give up something.  I'll post more about this closer to Lent.

3. Potty train Elliott: I was hoping to do this over Christmas, but he is simply not ready.  I'm hoping to start over Spring Break.  He'll be 3 in July, but I know boys can be more challenging to train than girls.

4. Budget better and start saving for a Disney trip: I could budget better, simply put. I want to find a better way to make our food budget stretch further too.  Since I'm not working full time (yet), I will use pocket change to save for our Disney trip, which we are hoping to take in two years.  Once I get a better job, I will also (finally) start a future fund for E (money for college, trade school, what-have-you).

5. Get a job that is fulfilling and helps pay the bills: My assistantship ends in May, so I need to get a job that begins in June.  I need some specific work experience, but with my education, I'm hoping to double our household income. This will make 4 easier too!

6. Organize the house more effectively: We organized some things this year that made life oddly easier.  I would like to extend that throughout the house.  I hate looking high and low for things that should just have a spot.  Once I've purged in step 2, I want to make it easier to find the things we keep (the things that matter).

7. Complete a rough draft of at least four dissertation chapters: I want to graduate in 2016, so I need to stay on track with writing.  I have the beginnings of a few chapters, so I should continue making progress through the year.

8. Finish coursework and maintain GPA: I should finish coursework in May, and I'm already registered, so this should be the easiest goal on the list.

It's an attitude adjustment. My other mantra should be "live intentionally." I want to pay better attention to what goes in my body (thanks MyFitnessPal!), where my money goes (, and what happens to my time.  I need to think long-term, worry about myself and my family, and less about what others think.  Elliott will probably start pre-school, I'll probably start a new job.  It's going to be a big year!

- M.