Friday, December 30, 2011


I enjoy a fresh start.

In my life, each year presents itself with multiple fresh starts, and I take advantage of every one.  I get New Years, I get two new semesters, I get summer break, I get Lent.  I enjoy making goals and organizing my thoughts.  This year, I'm being a little ambitious.

Last year, I was pregnant, and to me, that was the only thing I needed to concentrate on.  I was eating healthier, I was in good shape.  Nothing was more important to me than having a healthy, successful pregnancy.  This year, I have other (smaller) goals.

I'm breaking them up into small chunks.  A few are year-long, but others are monthly or seasonal.  I'm only committing to a few now.  I don't know what my priorities may need to be come March (that's when I'll hear back from graduate schools).  I'm also not posting all of them here, but I'll leave you with a few.

For 2012, I want to simplify my life.  Fewer junk emails, fewer online obligations, less stuff.  Most of my other goals work into that.

  • By Elliott's first birthday, I want be back in shape.  When my little guy turns one in July, I want the only reminders of my pregnancy to be pictures, the wisdom I gained, and of course, my little man.
  • During Lent, I'm going to make a square-a-day blanket.  I'm also going to do the modified 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge from Clover Lane.
  • January's goal is to be 100% ready for the History semester, and flexibly ready for my American Studies class.  I've taught the history class now 5 semesters, so my assignments are refined and my lectures just need a little tweaking.  I'm teaching a new class this year, so I know when that happens, being too unyielding is detrimental overall.
  • In February (in which we have an extra day!), I will have my kitchen in order by the end of the month.  This includes meal planning, organizing, and just eating better.
  • In March, in honor of the Academy Awards, I will write a movie review every day and revive my movie blog.  I got a movie journal for Christmas, so I'll watch movies throughout January and February, but I'll make sure there are 31 new articles / reviews on my movie blog during the month of March.
  • I also have a reading goal of 20 books for the year.  I'm terrible about reading, which is especially sad considering my profession.  When I'm assigned new books, I read them, but I don't just sit down and read.  I got some great books for Christmas, and I always have quality access to books.  I have a GoodReads account, so I'll keep track and review there.
These may seem ambitious, but they don't cost a cent, and they will help me achieve all of my year-long goals.  I'll add to these after I see what the graduate school situation is (or isn't).  

Happy New Year!

- J & M (& E & B)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Elliott's First Christmas!

Someone couldn't wait to open presents...6am.

One of the many super cool outfits he got.

We'll wait a few years, but we do love Charlotte's Web

Rock 'n' roll!  

Special gift from Mama.

Jason, Elliott, and Grandma Bebe.
Christmas was wonderful!  A few notes:

1. We got so many wonderful things for Christmas and we are truly blessed to have such wonderful family members.  The highlight of the gifts include: PJ pants that look like acid washed jeans (Jason); Beatles print   and a Vera Bradley laptop case (Megan); and a stuffed aquarium (Elliott).  Again, we loved everything and didn't have to (or want to) exchange a thing.

2. We are exhausted.  Elliott is definitely feeling the rush-around.  We've had plans every day, and even though Elliott hasn't joined us on each one, being left with a babysitter (grandparents), its a disruption to his schedule.  We have all had colds.

3.  Church was weird.  People don't know how to dress for mass anymore.  Casual jeans and hoodies are not acceptable church-wear, even for Saturday vigil.  Nor are hooker heels and too-short dresses.  The homily was REALLY WEIRD.  The theme was "Christmas is for adults only."  Father likened it to fireworks.  It made no sense and I really hope he didn't give it at the 6:30 children's mass.  I'm also still getting used to the changes in the mass's wording, so I felt silly.

- J & M.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmastime is Here!

Christmas is here, and I have a lot to post about!

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Jason and I decorated for Christmas.  Over the last few years, I have accumulated some really nice stuff, so I don't overdo it and I didn't buy any new decorations this year.  I don't have picture right now, but if I find the time, I'll post some.

The only things we didn't have were stockings.  Jason and I (and Barney) have celebrated Christmas Eve and Day at our family's homes, so my childhood stocking is still at my parents' and Jason's mom has stockings for us there.  We don't have one for Elliott, and at our house, we don't have one for either of us.  Barney, on the other hand, has two.  Go figure.  (Side note: One is actually going to reside permanently at Grandma or Nana's house).  So, we went to Target.  I didn't want to spend much, but I knew Target had a good selection.  I was initially inspired by one of my readers, MJ, to get matching stockings for us, preferably with our initials on them.  I thought that was a nice touch.  Well, J and M were in supply, but forget finding E.  They must have had a run on them or something.  So, we ended up getting stockings that matched our personalities better.  Jason and I have knitted stockings that remind us of our craftiness.  Elliott's actually goes well with Barney's.  They are both fleece appliques' with cuteness by the pound.  Elliott's is a skiing snow man, and Barney's is a cat (of course).  They look really nice hung up on our wall (in an apartment, you don't have a hearth and you don't have a staircase, so the wall it is).

Stocking traditions are interesting to me.  My family fills our stockings with small things: nail polish, gift cards, toiletries, gum, a bag of our favorite candy, hair things, and a clementine in the toe.  We love clementines, and it keeps things from falling into the abyss that is the toe.  In Jason's family, it is pretty much all candy and a gift card or two.  Jill puts other little things on gifts to sass them up.  Last year, Jason and I got a Christmas ornament that was a "Y," so Jill used that almost like a gift tag.

What are your feelings on stockings?  What gifts do you put in them, if any, or are they strictly decoration?  What are your traditions?  What do yours look like?

- J & M.

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Praise of the Moby

This entry is brought to you by the Moby.

What is a Moby?  Oh, it is a lifesaver.  It allows me to comfort my son when his teeth and gums are so very sore, while also making dinner or grading papers.  Right now, he is asleep on my chest, calm as could be.  20 minutes ago, he was crying and giving me that look.  Moms know that look.  It says "Mama, why are my gums on fire?  AHHHHHHH!"  A few minutes of walking around in the wrap (with the lights low) and he is out.

The wrap is one of those things that people stereotype in Mommyland. Some women see the wrap and think "Attachment Parent!  Oh noes!"  I used to.  I lumped it in with crunchy granola parenting practices such as nursing until age three, co-sleeping, and raising gender-free children.  However, I saw it in action not long before I got pregnant.  It was on the street, and the couple was having a quiet conversation, and their little one was blissfully dozing.  They looked a lot like me and Jason.  I registered for one.  My cousin's wife used it with much success, and when I opened it at my shower (thanks Aunt Jan), she immediately sang its praises.  Another friend used it when she and her family chaperoned a school trip to Italy.

I tried it early on, once I got confident even holding E.  He was not happy about it.  I asked the friend who used it in Italy (in the summer, no less) for advice.  "It's all about confidence," she stated.  "If you seem tentative and awkward, he won't feel as secure."  I tried again when E was about 4 weeks old.  He fell asleep immediately.  I used it for the next couple of weeks, including on our beach vacation.  When we stayed a night at a hotel, I used it to carry him to breakfast and eat.  After the earthquake, I carried him around for the next few hours, just to calm my nerves.

At about 2 months, he wanted nothing to do with it again.  He was too big for the newborn hold, but did not possess the muscle development to hold his head in the hug hold.  I put the Moby away, assuming I wouldn't see it again until Baby #2 (which is a number of years away).

Cut to the past week.  Elliott has been teething and inconsolable during the late afternoon and early evening.  He wants to be held and walked around the apartment, which as he pushes 16 or 17 pounds, does a number on my arms and back.  I thought about the Moby.  I slipped him in (he has excellent head control and has for a little while) and he fell asleep.  I used it at my parent's this past weekend.  Jason learned to use it on Sunday.

I honestly urge Mamas with colic-y or "high-needs" babies to give the Moby a try.  It's a bit pricy ($40), so ask to borrow one from a friend.  I had great success, but some babies may not take to it as well.

 - J & M.

PS: This product endorsement is all due to the joy of having a happy baby.  Moby did not pay me to say any of this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Shopping, How I Loathe Thee.

This weekend, I went out on my first shopping trip of the year.  It was not a pretty sight.

Almost every year, my mom, her sisters (and sister-in-law), and her mother go on what we now call "The Brewer Ladies Shopping Trip."  For years, it let them spend time with each other, go on a little trip, and be kid-free to shop for Christmas.  It changes every year, but the girl cousins usually have to be a certain age to go on the trip.  For a while, it was once you were 21, but this year we included my youngest cousin on the trip (it was a more casual day trip and she's 12 1/2, so we weren't carting around a little kid).  Anyway, it's always a lot of fun to spend the day shopping, eating out, and laughing (we find everything funny).

This year, we went to the PA Christmas and Gift Show, which takes place at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Arena.  The Farm Show is PA's version of the state fair.  Food, a rodeo, and lots of animals and farm / country supplies.  It's a unique experience.  Because January is a quiet time in the life of a farmer, the Farm Show takes place then, and the show is all indoors at the arena.  It's a MASSIVE building.  The PA Christmas and Gift Show is a MASSIVE craft / gift fair.  I was overwhelmed.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but I kept my eyes open for more unique gifts, which I found.

We were also grossly unprepared.  We thought by eating a hearty breakfast and getting cash, we'd be in the clear.  In the parking lot, families were hauling out those grocery carts that you use in the city to haul food, giant tote bags, and strollers to the door.  They were in it to win it.  We were just there to look good.  We all had cute outfits on, but we should have worn matching T-shirts and sneakers.  We were a group of 8, and we lost each other constantly in the shuffle.  There were over a thousand vendors.  ONE THOUSAND.  People were leaving with loads of stuff, just to go back in!  I left with a book for Elliott and some soaps (handmade in Bucks County.  I had to go all the way to Harrisburg to find Bucks Country soaps).

We left exhausted.  My mom and aunts say they'll go again next year.  I don't know if I will.

After a late lunch / early dinner, we headed home.  My Aunt Chris had driven Elliott and I to Harrisburg on Friday night, and Grandpa watched E all day.  Jason met my aunt and I at KOP to switch cars, and boy was that a mistake.  I forgot that KOP is a zoo in December.  I'm so glad I'm doing almost all my shopping online.

The day would have probably been easier if Elliott hadn't had some tummy and teething issues the night before, finally falling fast asleep at 4 am.  I was flying solo (well, without Jason), so I was pretty tired in the morning.  It's amazing what you can do if you really want to.  I went to sleep last night at 10pm.  I woke up at 9.  I feel much better.

What shopping traditions, if any, do you have?

- J & M.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crafty Lady Tuesday on Thursday

I failed.  I was ready to post on Tuesday, but life took off without me.  Grading papers, teething babies.  Both required my attention, one a little more loudly than the other.  On to crafting!

Every serious crafter, no matter what his/her craft, one day wishes for a space set aside for your pursuits.  When I was a kid, my parents finished the basement, and along one wall was a long counter, puncuated with cabinets.  At the end was a huge cubboard for games and craft supplies.  My mom stored her sewing machine and its accoutrement, while Sarah and I stowed our markers and Perler beads in the drawers.  My dad did a fantastic job.  Today, I long for such a space.  A place where I could leave my projects out and not have to start all over every time I want to work.

When we moved into our current apartment, I wanted to ensure my things were organized, and the first on my list were craft supplies.  An abandoned dresser, far too small to hold anyones wardrobe, holds my scrapbooking supplies, ribbon, tape, scissors, stickers, and notions.  In the hall closet, I housed my two plastic drawer towers of yarn and used the shelf to hold my scrapbooks (I have 8).  I wanted to make a table out of the the drawers, but the space wasn't wide enough.

Anyway, one day we'll have a house with the space for an office / craft room.  I want a glass topped table, that way paint and glue are easily cleaned up.  Ikea has a few really beautiful options.  This End Up has sturdy kids furniture that would be good for Elliott to craft along-side Mama.  Sarah and I had that brand of stuff in our playroom growing up, and aside from the marker, it held up well.

Because I prefer to hide my things in drawers, it can be difficult to find supplies when I need them.  This is why I love Ravelry.  It has a feature to organize your yarn (pictures and other tools so you can look through your supplies before you dig through drawers), hooks, patterns, needles, and even their "notebook" feature to track the progress of  your projects.  Most patterns can be stored in your "library," along with the books you may own in real life.  It takes a little time to get it set up, but once it is, it truly makes life easier.

I'm thinking of opening an Etsy store, but I really don't want to have to pay commission on my sales.  I would really rather just sell things on my blog or something and install a "PayPal" button.  I don't know. I'm saving those decisions for after the holidays.  I have a lot of gifts (and a couple of commissions!) to make.

This was a boring craft post, but I wanted to discuss it.

- J & M.

Recipes coming soon!