Saturday, December 15, 2012

Days 2 - 5, a Recipe, and some Thoughts.

The rest of the week just FLEW by.  It was the last week of classes, so I was just trying to keep up with all of the end of the year stuff.  Here's how I'm doing on my 2 week challenge - Poorly.  I might do something on its first day, but then I fail to carry it through.  I have been drinking my water, mainly because I have an annoying cold.


Day 2: Drink 1.5 L of water (12/11) - 1 L again, but I at least drank water.
Day 3: Regulate your meals (12/12) - My 27th birthday! - Impossible.  Students in and out during office hours.  Birthday cheesesteaks...so, not my healthiest days.  No regrets.
Day 4: Make a healthy meal / snack choice (12/13) - Another crazy day and I didn't even think about what I was eating.  Eeee.
Day 5: Go for a gentle walk (12/14) - Unless you count walking from my car to the bar and back again when I went out for my birthday, no walk was had.  

Maybe I have to start over again.  

************

As promised, here is a recipe!  We made it tonight, and it goes well with almost any green veggie and starch. 

Buffalo Chicken Bites

- 2 - 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed to your liking (I like 1" - 2")
- 1/2 cup flour
- Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Olive Oil

1. In a medium sized bowl, place flour and mix in salt and pepper evenly.
2. Heat large pan over medium heat; pour oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  You may need to refresh the oil if all the chicken doesn't fit in the pan at once.
3. Cover each cube with flour and place in pan.  Brown on all sides.
4. Over mostly baked cubes, shake Red Hot Sauce.  This is completely to taste.  If you have little ones who are sensitive to hot things (Elliott's favorite snack is Hot 'n' Spicy Cheezits, so this is not an issue), you can use honey mustard, BBQ sauce, or some other sauce you enjoy.  
5.  A few more moments in the pan, and you're done!  

It's super easy, and usually yields leftovers, at least for our family.  They also re-heat well, so they make great lunches (packed and at home).

************

Finally, some thoughts.  The events of yesterday have definitely upset me, but not just because I'm outraged that something like this happened again.  My sister is a first grade teacher.  She adores her students and just knowing that these little ones were the same age as her kiddos makes it even more real.  I'm planning on writing my Congressman and Senator, and hopefully you are too.  Around the holidays, it is easy to find a lot of worthy charities and ways to help.  One of my favorite blogs, MODG, is running a program where those in need can make requests, and those of us who can help try to make their holidays easier.  

- M.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All Over the Web.

Hey!  Today my guest post for Early Mama went up, so check it out!

I discuss carving out spaces for student moms, which is a must if you want to be successful.

If any new readers have stumbled over here thanks to Early Mama, welcome!  Comment and introduce yourself.  You can also follow us --------->

- M.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 1: Eat a piece of fruit.

Okay, this one was pretty easy.  Since Elliott started on solids, we've had a lot more fresh foods in our house.  I had a banana with lunch and that was that.  It could have been a little riper, but oh well.  However, I brought it from home.  If I hadn't packed a snack and had to rely on the cafeteria, I would have had to choose between melon and more melon.  Not in season, no thank you.

Tomorrow is drink 1.5 L of water.  I drank water only today just to see how much I normally drink if I have a water bottle.  I actually drink one liter to begin with, so tomorrow is going to involve a lot of trips to the little ladies room, but it won't feel like a burden.  The exercise days are going to suck.

Semester is almost over.  I got my early birthday present (a sweet sweet new camera).  Going out for my birthday for the first time in three years.  Life is pretty good.

- M.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Two Weeks.

When I was pregnant, I really considered everything that went into my body.  I drank a lot of water, ate more green leafy veggies and protein, and exercised.  I got out of the habit of exercising during those 6 weeks of rest after giving birth, and although I've tried to get back on the exercise train, it hasn't become a real habit.  I drink more water than pre-pregnancy, but not near enough.  My diet is a joke.  It's difficult to eat well on our campus...very difficult...and very expensive.

I saw this list of things to try for two weeks.  You add another one each day, and they are real baby steps on the path to living healthier.  I figure I'll give it a try and report back here periodically.


Day 1: Have a piece of fruit (12/10)
Day 2: Drink 1.5 L of water (12/11)
Day 3: Regulate your meals (12/12) - My 27th birthday!
Day 4: Make a healthy meal / snack choice (12/13)
Day 5: Go for a gentle walk (12/14)
Day 6: Throw a compliment at someone (12/15)
Day 7: Drink 2 L of water (12/16)
Day 8: Get up earlier (12/17)
Day 9: Make another healthy meal choice (12/18)
Day 10: Do a plank (12/19)
Day 11: Spend 10 minutes gently stretching (12/20)
Day 12: Have a portion of green veggies (12/21)
Day 13: Substitute an unhealthy snack (12/22)
Day 14: Powerwalk (12/23)

That takes us right up to Christmas Eve.  Those two days are BUSY BUSY BUSY, so I'm not going to try fitting in anything specific.  It'll be challenge enough to keep things regular enough for Mr. E.

Finally, I have exciting news: I'm making my debut as a guest contributor to Early Mama this week!  I wrote about making spaces at home, work, and school for the student mom.  My articles there will be primarily for early moms / students, particularly graduate students, which is a very underserved group.  I know not all of my readers fall into either category, but I hope to drop some general wisdom for graduate students and younger moms alike.  I'll be sure to link up when the article appears (probably Tuesday or Wednesday).  

I'm also turning 27 this week, so there's that.  

- M.

Favorite Things: Work / School

Dear Readers: Welcome (or welcome back!)

As Christmas approaches, I find that many of my favorite blogs do series highlighting their favorite things.  I thought, "Gee, I like things."  So, here is the first of my lists.  I also plan on having lists for books, house, kids, craft, beauty, and man.  But first: Work and school supplies!

I L-O-V-E office supplies.  It's part of my Type A-ness.  Without further ado, organization!

Moleskine Le Petit Prince Weekly Planner - Large ($22.95)

I am a Moleskine fanatic, so it should be noted that I have used a Moleskine planner for the last three years exclusively.  The year I had Elliott, I even bought a second planner that had a monthly calendar, so I could keep track of EVERYTHING.

2012 saw me using the Extra Large soft cover Weekly planner.  The layout is the best.  One side has each day of the week with plenty of space to write appointments and lists, while the other side is just lined paper.  Here I put a weekly to-do list, list of readings for class, craft assignments, and chores.



2013 will see me using the Special Edition Le Petit Prince Weekly Planner.  I find that book enchanting, so I was in love with the little address book, desk calendar, and cover illustrations.  It's also hardback.  They also have Peanuts, Star Wars, and Lego planners (I didn't know about them when I bought the Petit Prince planner, because you can bet I'd have a Star Wars planner).

Papermate Flair Felt-Tipped Pens (16 Pack) ($23.99)

One of my best friends and I became obsessed with these in college.  We used it for projects and our notes in class and our notes to each other on our bathroom mirror.  We are never without them.  The colors are really vibrant and fun, my favorites being navy, tangerine, lime, and plum.


Staples Better View Binders (any size) (starts at $8.99)

These are far and away the best binders for long term projects, research, or even a home organization binder.  They have an insert for a cover sheet, as well as an easy-to-insert spine label.  They come in a lot of sizes and fun colors.  I use mine for my professional development materials and for my genealogical research (3").

Mead Flex Hybrid Notebook ($14.59)

The Staples binders are good for things you don't need to carry around, but the Mead Flex Hybrid Notebooks are lightweight, and they have dividers and paper already inside.  I use them for teaching and for conferences, since they are easy to travel with as well.

Avery Style Edge Insertable Dividers ($5.19)

Dividers are dividers, but if you need them to last long term, I highly recommend these.  They are sturdy plastic and reusable.  They are also pretty colors.  So, there's that.


I have a real thing for office supplies and this post could go on for days, so I'll end there.  Any other questions about the supplies I use / love?  Comment!

- M.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Beehive.

Our home should be nicknamed "The Beehive" because we are one busy family lately!  The semester is winding down, which means that it's the craziest time of the year for a student / teacher.  I have papers to write, papers to grade, and projects to finish.  I had a mock lecture last week, and I could not be more happy that I got it over with.  It's one thing to lecture to your students, but it's a whole other thing to lecture to peers and professors.  ACK!  I also had some crochet commissions, and while it made things a little more crunched, I'm very thankful.

Jason has been busy starting a side business.  As I have mentioned before, my hubby is quite the chef.  He makes mouth-watering meals, but he is a gifted baker.  He will spend Christmas break getting things in order, and hopefully will be ready to take cookie orders soon.  He's testing and taking orders from close friends and family now, but I can't wait for him to move forward in this thing he loves.

Elliott is teething again and growing like a weed.  We are waiting for him to say his first words other than Mama and Dad (the latter of which he loves to yell when he wakes up).  He also does a number of "tricks," or little animal sounds we taught him.  We also taught him some other imitations, such as Julia Child:

M or D: E, what does Julia Child do?
E: OOoooooh!

I keep meaning to record them, because they are all so cute.

Finally, keep an eye out, because I'm one of Early Mama's new guest contributors, focusing on being a student / mom / teacher.  I will submit my first post tonight, so I'll be sure to link it here when it debuts.  If you are a mom (early or otherwise), check out Early Mama.  She is highlighting a number of Mom blogs that are really just the best.

- M.

P.S.: Looking for those easy recipes I mentioned weeks ago?  One of them is already on my blog (Cheesy Crab Soup), while some of the others are at One Sleepy Chef, over on the side-bar.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Attempting to Love November

First, I hope no one took my radio silence as a hurricane issue.  We were very very fortunate and suffered no damage or discomfort during the storm, except Elliott, who had his 15 month boosters!

November is blah.  I like Thanksgiving and all, but for me, it's 30 days of waiting for the BEST MONTH OF THE YEAR!  December is a month full of birthdays (mine and many many others), parties, FINALS, and Christmas!

To deal, I look forward to fall foods.  Taco Soup, Cheesy Crab Soup, hot meals that keep you cozy long after dinner.

I'll be sharing some of our favorite meals here over the next few days.  Hopefully Jason will also update his blog, because he's been cooking up some delicious things in the kitchen.

I'm also going to label some "grad-school meals," which means they are 1. Quick (less than an hour start to finish) 2. Limited clean-up and 3. yield loads of leftovers for night class dinners and lunches.

Grad-school updates soon...I really only had time to lay out a quick plan at the moment.

- M.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh Sandy.

I can't believe I'm writing another hurricane prep post!  I've lived my entire life in the mid-Atlantic region and never have I experienced such intense weather.

Prep this time is a little different from Irene.  First, we don't have a newborn (phew!) we have a 15 month old.  While he's less fragile, he's also more aware, so I hope we can protect him from the scariness of the storm.

Second, we live in a house.  There is a basement that could flood, a lot of windows, and an attic that needs some retro-fitting.  I took down our outdoor Halloween decor and brought in our outdoor furniture this morning (boo...), and we'll take care of trash cans in the morning (our trash is *supposed* to go out tomorrow).  Our wiring is also above ground, making the possibility of a power outage much much higher than before.  Fortunately, we also live near both sets of parents, so hopefully if the power stays out for long here, we can escape to one of their homes.

Otherwise, we're using our lessons learned from Irene.  We are packing emergency bags; we bought bottled water, flashlights, batteries, and shelf-stable food.  This includes powdered milk for Mr. E.

If you're in the path of Sandy, and not sure what to do, here are some tips:

 - Fill your car up with gas.  If the power goes out, the gas stations don't work.
 - Tap MAC.  Again, without power, credit cards don't work.
 - Put your important documents (insurance, Social Security cards, birth certificates, etc.) in a Ziploc bag.  If you have to leave quickly, you don't want to leave those behind.
 - Clean your house.  Sounds odd, but you can't vacuum without power, and if the lights are out, you want to be able to find things easily.  In that, locate your toolbox, flashlights, batteries, and other emergency supplies.
 - If you have a pet, make sure the carrier is ready to go.  Food, toys, water are all good things to have at the ready.
 - Make a plan!  Work for Jason and I is still on for tomorrow, but the storm will hit during the day.  We are making a plan in case I can't drive home.
 - We have some shelf stable food, such as PB & J, crackers, meal bars, cereal, and tuna.  It might not be a culinary breakthrough, but it's better than nothing.

I hope you all weather the storm well, and we'll see you on the flip side of Sandy.

- M. and co.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Equality in a Marriage.

Before I was married, or even really in a serious relationship, I believed equality in a relationship was key.  Stay-at-home dads are cool, moms mowing the lawn seemed normal, and cooking dinner together would be mundane.

I was right on most of these points, although I haven't mowed a lawn in years.

Jason and I are pretty equal.  Our contributions to the house are on par with each other, and we support each other with projects and school and everything else.  Jason is a great chef, and I definitely  have some "handyman" blood running my veins.

The one thing I never counted on was having a husband who actually likes to decorate.  I look around at linens and I know that this is not normal.  If so, the flowery, lacy bedspreads would not sell as well as I think they do.  As we've been purchasing things for the new house (curtains, etc.) and new bedding (we got a bigger mattress, so we need new sheets and such), Jason has definite and deep feelings about color schemes, fabrics, and home decor as a whole.

My aunt also said she has this "problem," so I know I'm not alone.  Decorating our new bedroom has been a team effort, and since I only have so much brain power to devote to so many things, Jason has really taken the lead on the major elements.  We bought our new bedset today (so many decorative pillows!), and he may even get the accent wall paint this afternoon.  Our mattress arrives on Thursday morning, and I can't wait to get the bedframe soon.

Fortunately, Jason lets me have my other domestic moments, such as my recent project to make laundry day more efficient and organize our office.

I promise a house tour soon, but there are still major elements missing.  It will probably end up being a "Christmastime / Home tour."  My goal is to have our piano by Christmas so we can have carol singing with our very first Christmas at home.

- M.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Crafty Lady Goes Overboard.

I have a confession:

I went to the craft store twice this week.  I even took Elliott on one of the trips because I felt it was essential that I went on Tuesday before grocery shopping.

Oy.

It all started when I got it in my head that Elliott needed a new hat for winter.  He really does.  I made him one last year, but I'm pretty sure it won't fit.  Even if it does, he needs something warmer this year.  So, off to the store we went.  I had a coupon for 50% off my entire purchase (sale, clearance, what-have-you), so I figured I could get some fall decor and cotton yearn too.  I paid very little for my stuff, and I got E a neat twisted blue yarn for a nice, bulky winter hat.

I had more coupons though, and those didn't kick on until today.  I knew I wouldn't have time again during the week, and they are really good coupons.

So I went again this morning.  Alone.  I set out to buy all the materials for all the projects I plan to take on any time soon.

This week I purchased:
 - 1 skein of bulky yarn for E's hat.
 - 2 balls of cotton yarn for a mat I'm making.
 - gel window stickies (leaves)
 - Halloween gel window stickies (that glow in the dark!)
 - little scarecrow for the yard.
 - 1-one pound skein of yellow yarn for a baby blanket.
 - 1 yard of fabric for a front door curtain.
 - a glue gun (how did I not have one before?!)
 - spray adhesive.
 - paper cutter.
 - a jumbo pack of embroidery floss for my grandparents' Christmas present.
 - Fall themed table runner.
 - fall / owl themed vinyl table cloth.

Nothing was purchased "for kicks."  I had next to no fall decor, and I got all of this for 50% off.

I can't wait to show you the outcome of all of these projects and decorations!

- M.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Plastic Bags Everywhere!

I've been an active supporter of the "reusable bag" idea for a long time.  Even in college, I tried to have a couple with me at the store.  Try as I might, I don't always remember.  Perhaps the last big trip took all the bags out of the car, and when I need to take a quick trip in for produce and milk, I'm left NOT holding the bag.  Therefore, I end up with plastic bags.  The Giant has a place for us to take them to be recycled, but we also need some around the house for emergency diaper disposal and everyday kitty litter duty.

Anyone who is on Pinterest has seen the tutorial on using an old Clorox wipes container as a pop-up plastic bag dispenser.  As much as I love Pinterest, I'm always a little skeptical that something is going to work until I am completely done with the project.

It really works.

The tutorial is here at Tater Tots and Jello.

As a side note, I'm using scrapbook paper (since I don't really have fabric around), and I easily put 14 bags in mine, not 12.  I also had a lot of usable bags (bags with holes went to the Giant to be recycled), so I started a second roll, and just put a rubber band around it until I have enough bags and another container.

They suggest stowing one in the car, but mine will be in my laundry room (until I can make a second) taking up far less room than the big ol' bag-o-bags did.  It will also open up a hook in the mud room for jackets, now that fall is around the corner.

It was really simple and I'm oddly satisfied with having done something from Pinterest, even something this easy.

*Pictures soon*

- M.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Meal Planning

In my not-so-humble opinion, meal planning is essential to maintaining a personal budget.  I actually learned this habit from Sara, who always pre-packed lunches for her internship our senior year.  She goes months sometimes without buying lunch out.  When I consider how much money that saves her just to plan lunch, it's pretty convincing.

Anyway,  because of our schedule, I end up planning almost every meal, as well as how Elliott will eat what Jason and I are eating.  I get stuck in ruts A LOT.  I thought I'd post our meal ideas to help my readers...reader?  Oh, who cares.

Note: On work days, I have an instant breakfast shake and toast or an English muffin.

Monday: Lunch (packed) - Turkey sandwich with mayo, tomato, and colby-pepper jack cheese.      
               Dinner (packed) - Steak salad with lime, oil, and vinegar dressing.

Tuesday: Breakfast - pancakes (it's my day off)
               Lunch - PBJ and mandarin oranges
                Dinner - Taco night! (Elliott will probably have veggies and a baby food.  Tacos are spicy.)

Wednesday: Lunch (packed) - Beef quesadilla with all the fixin's.
                    Dinner - Grilled cheese with tomato soup (topped with Hot 'n' Spicy Cheez-its)

Thursday: Breakfast - waffles (I have my Thursday mornings off too)
                 Lunch - Pasta and hot dogs (not together...)
                  Dinner - DIY (class night...I'm thinking Neato Burrito for Mama).

Friday: Lunch (packed) - Pasta with homemade red sauce; salad.
            Dinner - Pulled pork in the crock-pot

Not that any of these are intense meals, but our weeks are crazy.  The pulled pork recipe is from Real Simple, and it is amazing.

Do you meal plan?  What are some of your go-to-meals?

- M.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Organizer Tutorial

Finished product!
Look around your office, playroom, any functional room, what-have-you.  What is the most annoying thing about the way it looks?  I bet it's the little clutter.  Pens, pencils, rubber bands, paper clips, bobby pins (ooo...they're everywhere!), little LEGOS...you know the drill.  I found a solution on Pinterest, and I love it.

Here's my little tutorial (some of the other tutorials were more complicated or had measurements that were a little off).

Materials:
 - Stack-On 22 drawer Organizer (Home Depot, $16.92) *There is also a 39-drawer unit, if you feel like that might serve you better.  I'll be buying one of those when I finally get a craft space.
 - 2 pieces of 12"x12" scrapbook paper.  I used two different colors of the same pattern, but obviously the creative choices are up to you.  I used DCWV's Citrus stack, which was on sale for $9.99 at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  I always have a few of these paper pads around to make boxes and to scrapbook.  This one has glitter!
 - Scissors
 - Clear Scotch Tape

Procedure:
 1. Cut 14 1 5/8"x 2" rectangles for the small drawers.
 2. Cut 8 2 1/4" x 4 1/4" rectangles for the large drawers.
 3. Place the papers inside the front of the drawers.  You may find you need to trim some of the tops down.
 4. Use the Scotch Tape to tape the sides of the paper down INSIDE the drawer.  This is easily the most tedious part of the project.  I found that placing the paper in first, then putting the tape up the sides was the easiest.
 5. Put stuff in!  I haven't labeled mine yet, because believe it or not, not all of the drawers have things in them!  The big drawers are ideal for pens, pencils, highlighters, 3"x 5" index cards, and regular sized Post-Its.  The little drawers rock for those little things: paper clips, rubber bands, staples, Post-It tabs, and binder clips.

If you are looking for something sassier, or with more sophisticated labeling, check out See Kels Learn, who made an amazing Teacher Toolbox.

She was inspired by another blogger (whose post I can't find), who was inspired by Create-Teach-Share.  These are intense!

I can't wait to make another one for my crochet supplies!

I think I have an organizing addiction...

- M.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Can We Talk About Pinterest?

I love Pinterest.

I've found great crafts, DIY projects, and recipes.  I could sit and search certain boards for HOURS.  I wish I could take a year off from life and just craft and read (I've said this before, I know).

However, having spent so much time on the site, I have a few issues.  Folks don't have Pinterest etiquette, and it drives me nuts when I'm trying to look things up or find a tutorial.

1. If you are posting something from a blog, link back to the exact post.  Maybe it was the first post when you pinned, but if this person's blog is well-kept (read: unlike mine), that post will be off the front page soon.  Take the time to click through to the post (click on the post title) and link THAT.  I went to a blog today for a baby gift idea, and found out that the baby she was expecting in the pin was now almost a year old!

2. Have clean, clear boards.  I have a catch-all board for the things that really aren't "Pinterest" items, but I want to save them anyway.  No one wants their dashboard cluttered with pins they don't care about, and the point of boards is follow them individually (and to be able to actually find things in your own board).

3. Don't post a random picture of food or a craft from Flickr* or another photo hosting site.  People on Pinterest want to be able to replicate the item, and without a tutorial, that's usually difficult.

3a. Don't post from Pinterest imitators.  The same effect occurs, and I see projects I have no instructions for.

3b. *However, if you are posting amazing photography from Flickr or another site, that's different.  That's a viable category.  (I'm talking to you, Sara).

4. Create some content!  Pin from blogs you like, which  helps give those people traffic.  Many craft, home, and DIY blogs are run by stay-at-home moms looking to make some money with a monetized blog.  Many of those ladies are Professional, with a capital P.  Gabrielle Blair, better known as Design Mom, co-founded the Alt Summit, a conference for professional bloggers, proves that the best bloggers are creating content, not just re-pinning it.  Promote these folks' hard work.  If you have a tutorial or the like on your blog, pin it!  We pin Jason's recipes all the time.  My mom actually started that, but it was a good thought.

5. Use the right words in your comments.  These are used in the search to help others find specific crafts and ideas.

Basically, be part of the Pinterest community in an active way.

What suggestions do you have?

- M.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just One.

Now that school is in full swing, I've gotten some idea of when I get to eat and when I have breaks.  I didn't want to embark on a new fitness plan until I knew what was feasible.  I spent the summer participating in a "Biggest Loser" challenge with some ladies from high school.  I lost a few pounds, but considering the fact that the contest was 12 weeks long and I danced 5 hours a week, along with other exercise and cleaner eating.  I was frustrated to say the least.

That being said, I'm going to start implementing one new health / fitness "rule" each month.  I'm starting with two, because any food rule is going to be less effective without any exercise (dance ended two weeks ago).  Feel free to join in, but this is really just for me.

So, for September, here are my goals:

1. During the week, only water to drink.  I drink a breakfast shake in the morning, but I don't think of that as a "drink" so much as "breakfast."  Penn State Harrisburg has these neat water fountains that have a filtered spout, in addition to the regular fountain, just for filling up water bottles.  It even counts the number of bottles it has filled.  On the weekends, I'll let myself have a soda or a beer.  I'm not a crazy person.

2. Use the rowing machine for 20 minutes a day, along with 20 minutes of stretching / pilates / yoga.  Jason got a rowing machine for his birthday a few years ago, and I just started using it.  I LOVE IT.  I'm not into running at the moment, as I'm recovering from shin splints I got by doing leaps at dance, which doesn't have a sprung / floating floor.  Ouchies.  This has similar benefits.  I just love stretching, so I should feel good after that.  Why 20 minutes?  I exercise in front of the TV in our attic.  20 minutes is one episode of Seinfeld, Parks & Rec, or 30 Rock.  I'm not watching a clock, and I take my mind off the work.

I'm not posting weights on here (pah-leese), but after each month, I'll post a percentage of weight loss or some other milestone (inches, down a size, what have you).  I'll tag these posts "Just One" so you can find them all later.

Yay health!

- M.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School!

Tomorrow is my first day of being a Ph.D. student.  We have orientation for teaching all week, then classes (both my students' and my own) start up on the 27th.  I spent the weekend relaxing and mentally preparing myself for what is about to happen.  We spent Saturday in Philly (sans Elliott; he spent a night at Chez Nana and Grandpa's for a relaxing night of being spoiled).  It was like being a college student again, but just the fun stuff.  Deep conversations, laughing a lot, playing drinking games, and being around some of my favorite people in the world.  We came home late (or early?) last night because we're old and wanted our own bed.

This morning (a mere 4 1/2 hours after going to bed), I got up and went with my parents to Mt. Gretna's annual Art Show.  It was my mom's birthday present from me and my sister.  Mt. Gretna, for those who are unaware, is a lake community tucked back in the woods of a Chautauqua resort.  The people who live there have these amazing little cottages and homes that are full of character.  My mom always says she wants to live there, and I couldn't disagree with her.  The Art Show (this was its 38th year) is a juried arts and craft fair with music, food, and nature all around.  This isn't a local craft fair; the vendors have to submit pieces and are chosen to have booths.  A more traditional arts and craft fair is across the street.  We had a lovely day shopping, eating ice cream, and trying not to be stung by bees who wanted our ice cream.  If you have never been, it's amazing.  I'll try to give a heads up on here when the 2013 show is.

My t-shirt has a different design, but I couldn't find it online.


Now, I'm at home, Elliott's in bed, and I'm putting the final touches on my office before I pack my school bag.  Most things are put away, but there are always the odds and ends, and I want to be able to sit at my desk tomorrow evening and get my work done.  I'll pick out an outfit tonight and get my things together tonight so there isn't a mad rush in the morning.

What an exciting week!  I'm actually ready for summer to wind down, and for our family to get back on a schedule.  Enjoy the last moments of summer.

- M. & co.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Favorite Blogs.

I'm not the most active blogger (ha!), but I visit my blog everyday to check for comments to moderate and to read my favorite blogs.  There are certain ladies who I want to hear from every single day.  I'm always disappointed when they don't post (which considering my track record is quite hypocritical).  Since I love these ladies' blogs so much, I figured I should pass them along.

*These are people I don't know personally.  I check my friends blogs everyday too, because they are my friends.*

Clover Lane: This mom of 5 (almost 6) has one motto: simple = happiness.  She is the home of hte 40 Day, 40 Bags challenge, as well as a number of great and practical ideas.  She is sending one off to college in a few weeks...just a few days after she is due with number 6!  Her posts are going to get sparse so she can spend time with this new little one, but she has an archive filled with great advice and stories.

Design Mom: She is the queen of mom blogs, in my opinion.  Also a mother of 6 (what a trend), she and her family have lived in France for hte last 18 months.  She always has neat ideas, giveaways, and projects.  Her family has even created a web series called "Olive Us," which shows the kids doing various projects.  They are all adorable characters, and it's so much fun to see these siblings getting along and working together.

MODG: Totally irreverent mom-blog who hails from the Philly area.  She's expecting #2, and she is a lot more open about the imperfections of parenting and life.  She revels in them.  She's a breath of fresh air among the mom blogs who see themselves as beacons of perfect parenting (which I avoid).

Early Mama: I've actually been featured on this blog, but I volunteered because I believe in her mission of bringing together women who have decided to pursue marriage, parenting, and life at an age that is being considered "earlier."  People see me as an "early mom," despite the fact that I was older than my mother had been when I got married and about the same age when I had my first child.  It's a great support system.

You Go Girl!: This is a new favorite.  She doesn't post as often as I wish, but it's because she's working on all kinds of different craft projects and tutorials.  She is also a mom of 5 girls (which includes a set of triplets), all of whom are teenagers.  I'm really enjoying reading her archives right now, and I plan on making some "posh pillowcases" soon.

Check these out the next time you lack quality blog material to read.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

They are always available in the side links marked "Inspiration."

- M.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Crafty Lady Day.

Have I been busy with crafts or what?!  I wanted to get as many in-progress projects completed as possible before school starts.  The best stress reliever for me is to start projects, not finish them, so if I have a clean slate, I can start projects when I need a break.

I'm not even just talking about crochet, but other crafty / DIY projects as well.  Here's what I have been working on:


Commissioned booties, modified for a summer baby.

Hat for Jason to match the scarf I made him last fall.
Booties for the Etsy store!

In progress: Cupcake potholder for me!

Long term project: Hunger Games afghan.  This is the District 8 square.

Office organizer!  Tutorial to come.

Owl hat for my cousin's baby shower.
"Whatever" cotton cloth for my cousin's baby shower.
As you can see, my hooks have been busy.  Overall, I'm just trying to get my house in order and my brain prepared for the new school year.

Most of our summer has looked like this:
Look at this little guy!
We have a full weekend ahead of us, and school starts NEXT WEEK.  It's an orientation week, but I have to be at school every day all day, which is nothing like my schedule come the 27th.  It will probably throw Elliott off, but we'll get him back on track soon.

- M. & co.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

At 100.

This is our 100th post!  Considering that I'm not the most consistant blogger, I'm surprised that 100 is already here.

We've been engaged, got a kitten, married, moved, got pregnant, moved, had a baby, got into grad school, moved, and moved.  We've changed jobs, changed careers, and been blessed.

In this next 100, I'm hoping to have more "regular" series so I can plan blogs to post during the busy times of the semester.  We'll talk fall cleaning, Halloween, back-to-school, Christmas, crafts and DIY, 40 Days 40 Bags, and Easter.  Jason has been taking a hiatus from his blog, but has a number of entries in process, so I'll be sure to link up to those.

What would you like to see?

Thanks for sticking with us to 100.  Here's to 100 more!

- M. and co.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Starting Up.

Whenever I have a big change in my life, I'm always inspired to attempt other changes.  Since I'll be starting graduate school again, I decided to make some other changes.

First, I'm changing up my wardrobe.  Nothing huge, but I bought some new pieces today (including a bunch at Banana Republic, who was having an insane sale), and I gave some other things away.  I plan on purging again soon.  I added five new things today, and I gave four things away.  It felt balanced and right.

Second, I've been attempting to lose weight this summer.  Despite eating better and exercising, I've only lost about three pounds.  Argh.  I've found some new exercises that I'm going to try to use to eliminate my "mummy tummy," and I'm going to eat "cleaner."  More water, more fresh foods.  I'm hoping this will help lose the last few pounds or inches.

Finally, despite being 26 years old, I have worse acne than I did as a teenager.  I've tried drug store items to clear it up, but I'm going to take the plunge and try Proactive.  I got it today in the mail, I bought white linens (it bleaches things apparently), so I'm ready start.

I have a lot more organizing to do before school starts in 2 weeks.  My home organization binder needs new worksheets and finishing touches, the office is chaos, and my closet needs to be organized by color and such.  It makes it so much easier to get ready in the morning if I know where everything is.

Here's to new starts and new habits!

- M.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lazy Summer Days.

As anyone knows, the novelty of summer wears off.  For me, this usually happens around the end of July.  Perhaps earlier than most, but I love structure and schedule and having meaningful things to do.  Elliott also likes schedule (he put himself on one that I love), so it will be nice to go back to school and have some structure for everyone.

In order to combat the boredom, we've tried to keep busy.  We have lunch at Nana's once a week, dinner with my family at least once a week, and I go to dance twice a week.  I originally intended to go only for Level 5 (the top level that I ended with), but I went to a lower level the first week to warm up and I decided the warm-up was a good thing every week.  I haven't danced since about 4 months before E was born, so I have to treat myself differently after class.  I have to ice my shins and ankles, drink a lot more water, and usually take a Tylenol.  I also have to stretch after class and the next morning.  The school doesn't have sprung floors, so I'm not surprised my legs and ankles are achy.  I'm having a ton of fun though.  I love learning choreography, and since I go different days, I learn from a couple different people.  Last night, we did a lyrical combo and a hip-hop combo.  I look silly doing hip-hop.  I wish we would do a tap combo, but we just do a lot of across the floor.

Elliott and I also take little adventures throughout the week.  We went shopping yesterday, and we're visiting my grandparents with my sister today.  Between that and dance, it will be a long day.

My sister is leaving for NC on Sunday, and we will be sad to see her go.  I'm close with my sister, but Elliott just adores his Aunt Sarah.  Hopefully we can visit her this fall.

Yesterday, Elliott gave me a 2 1/2 hour block in the afternoon, and it was glorious!  I vacuumed, showered, blow-dried my hair, dusted the first floor, cleaned the kitchen, and read 50 pages of "Bringing Up Bebe," which I finished last night.  In short, it was an incredible look at how another culture parents its children.  I'm definitely going to adopt some of those methods and tips (especially teaching my child autonomy, respect, and patience).

- M.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crafty Sunday.

 I've been crafting away this summer!  I had a couple of commissions, which helped motivate me to finish these projects quickly.  


Commissioned bib.

Booties for Kierin, my cousin's son.

Commissioned booties; I used Knit Picks "Guppy."
I actually finished another pair of booties and a winter hat (to match Jason's scarf) in the last few days, but haven't had a chance to take pictures.  I have two bags filled with projects to finish before school starts in a month, so I need to work quickly to get them done.  


I can't believe school starts in a month!  I need more time!


 - M.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

They're here!

For years, Jason and I have gone back and forth over the appeal of e-readers and tablets.  We both love the feel of a real book.  I'm pretty sure we own over 300 books, and after moving them 6 times, we manage to still like having them.  However, the moving also made us consider the notion of an e-reader.

Cut to the beginning of the summer.  I received another scholarship from Penn State, similar to one I got the first time.  I had said that if I got the same scholarship this time around, I would get a Kindle or an e-reader to make my back-pack lighter.  So, we started shopping.  I was a supporter of the Kindle Fire, but Jason did a little more research and found that Google was releasing a new tablet soon.  It would sync up with my Gmail, calendar, and other Google platforms that I already use.  I was sold.

We had to pre-order them, and they finally got here!  It's charging right now, but I already love the size, feel, and look of the Nexus 7.  I won't have to carry my laptop all over creation every day.  I don't have an office at Penn State, so I'll have to carry everything with me.  A tablet is going to make this so much easier!

We'll give another update once we've had a chance to play.  :)

- M. & J.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Fun

In addition to moving, we have been doing a lot of fun stuff this summer!

Before we left Philadelphia, we made sure we ate at some of our favorite places:

Tampopo, 44th Street, West Philadelphia

El Limon, Fayette Street, Conshohocken

Frankford Hall, Frankford Street, Northern Liberties
That was just the week before we left!  I think the only place we didn't get to was From the Boot in Lafayette Hill, but my cousin lives close, so we can get our visit in then.

My first outside-baby Mothers Day was really special.  Jason made me breakfast, and he gave me new running sneakers and a nice dinner out (which we haven't had a chance to take yet!).  Elliott (read: Jason) made me a Shutterfly book.  We spent the weekend with my family at Aunt Chris' and at Longwood Gardens, which I had never been to before.  So beautiful, and so big!

My special mothers day pancakes.

Elliott and his grandparents.
The next few weeks were consumed with moving and other family issues.  We started June with a visit to Mt. St. Mary's University, which is my dad's alma mater.  It was alumni weekend, and mom and dad's friends' band was playing on campus.  It is a beautiful campus, and it also houses the Our Lady of Lourdes / Mother Seton shrine.  My parents got married there, and they have the most beautiful wedding photos as a result.

Beautiful campus.  That's the dorm my dad lived in!

Elliott and Mom in front of the chapel.
Father's day was pretty quiet.  That's what the dads wanted.  We had a joint bar-be-que with both families and played wash-shoes, which is a combo of washers, horseshoes, and bean-bag toss.  I got Jason a cast-iron skillet.  :)

The next weekend, my parents, sister, and I took my aunt and cousin from California to New York City and showed them the sights.  We tried to see the Ground Zero memorial, but the tickets were sold out (they're free, but they require advance reservations to keep the crowds at bay).  It was an interesting trip (thanks to some noisy neighbors at the hotel), but we still had a lot of fun together.

Flags at the World Trade Center site.

Salad at Carmines, an amazing Italian restaurant in Midtown.

Lights at the Marquis Marriott, where we beat the heat with a beer.
Our summer has been quite busy, and it's only half done!  We have baby showers, arts fests, birthdays, and lots of pool time planned before orientation starts for grad school at the end of August.  I'm also hoping we can take a weekend beach trip to OCNJ after the season is over, maybe in mid to late September.

What fun things have you been up to this summer?

- M.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Little Man is One!

Our Elliott Zachary is one today!

Newborn Elliott.

One year old Elliott at his party.

We love you Little Man!

More updates soon!  We've been so busy moving and planning and living life.  

 - M & J.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mischief Managed.

With the new house, graduate school, and life in general, we came to the realization that we need to be better organized when it comes to schedules and keeping the house in order (read: livable for child and cat).  So, I investigated what goes into a House Management Binder.  I had seen them on Pinterest, but I wanted to know more.

Basically, there is no one-size-fits-all binder.  I looked at about 10 different styles and suggestions and found what might work for us.  It will also be a perpetual work in progress.  Right now, I'm getting ready for school and teaching for the fall.  In a few years, it will be Mr. Elliott who is attending school.  Things will change, our life is always in flux, so I made sure it was going to be a fluid organizer.  The suggestion here is just that: a suggestion.  Check out how others do it and perhaps you'll find that perfect set-up.

First, and this seems universal, you need a 3-ring binder.  I got a Martha Stewart one from Avery, which is sturdy and sophisticated:

I have it in the blue.


I'm using my favorite dividers (What is wrong with me?  Who has a favorite divider?!), which are Avery Style Edge Insertables, which even come with printable labels!  Woo-hoo!



Aside from that, I'm using print-ables from all over the internet.  I'll post those in the House = Home tab soon.

My sections are this:

(Not inside the other dividers)
 - Post-it Project Dock (I'll explain at a later date)
 - Daily Docket

Dividers:
 - Calendar: Schedules, week-at-a-glance, and anything else that is need to know about our day.
 - Finances: Budget sheets, bill checklists, and reference material (copies of important financial docs, car stuff, etc.)
 - Cleaning: Weekly cleaning checklist, as well as items for daily and monthly consideration.
 - Food: Meal planning worksheets, grocery lists (reusable), recipes for the week, and take-out menus.
 - Health: Health records and paperwork for every member of the family, including Barney.  Also, insurance info.
 - School: Paperwork I'd need to quickly reference about Penn State.  Later, I expect that this will be used for school items for Elliott.
 - Planning: Party planning worksheets, trip planning, holiday planning...you get it.
 - Reference: Phone numbers, birthdays / anniversaries, periodic table, measurements...all that stuff.

I'll go into more detail once I have more detail to give!  We'll also have house updates soon...you know, once we actually move in.

- M & J.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Renters fo' Life.

When we initially decided to move to Central PA, we considered buying a house.  However, with my line of work requiring some moving around once I get my degree, and we do not want to sell a house in 4 years.  No thank you.

That said, we weren't interested in an apartment anymore.  Elliott needs a yard, I need an office, and Jason needs a kitchen he can actually play in.  We found all this (and more!) in an adorable house in the perfect location.

It has a functioning attic, office, bonus room that is actually a huge closet, big kitchen, and a yard!  That's aside from the cute touches that make the house something special.  My favorite is the stained glass in the family room and attic.

This is all incredibly exciting, but I'm most psyched about the decorating!  My class ends tomorrow, so for the rest of the summer, I'm going to document the things I do with the house.  Most of them will have the tag "DIY," so if you  miss some, check out that tag.

I also have some crochet projects to show off and other things, but this class and the commute takes up so much time.  Yeesh.

- M & J

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Upheaval.

Boy, oh, boy have the Yingers had changes in their lives this last month since I posted.  Yeesh.

First, we moved.  Apparently, moving is one of the most stressful life events, and we've done it almost every year for the last five years.  And this move isn't even permanent!  We're living with Jason's parents until we have a new place to live, which should be in the next month or so.  We can actually start looking because...

Jason got a new job!  It even uses his degree, which anyone in the liberal arts can tell you is a big deal.  He'll be working for a company that makes and sells collectible items (coins and the like), and he'll be writing copy and doing research for them.  We are beyond thrilled, and it will hopefully make our lives easier.

Elliott is taking some time to adapt to this newest change in his life.  This is the biggest change probably since he moved into his own room back in September, so we'll just help him through it.  He doesn't nap well, and is having some other minor issues.  Hopefully once Jason starts his new job and our schedule is less hectic (read: Elliott gets more Mama and Daddy time), he'll feel less insecure.

Most of our changes have been positive, but one has definitely caused negative stress.  Jason's grandma passed away almost two weeks ago, and I know its been stressful on everyone, especially Jason's dad.  My parents, along with friends and neighbors, have been so helpful by cooking food or taking Elliott so we didn't have to cancel classes and such.  The amazing people we know and love in Central PA have come through yet again for us.

We've already had some nice evenings with friends here, including a night on the porch with J's friends and a game / homemade goodies night with my PSU buds and their families (there were 5 kids there!).  We know there are nights at the pool, more beers, and more games to be had this summer and we can't wait.

I will post pictures soon of EVERYTHING.  I haven't posted monthly photos of Elliott in forever, and we've had other adventures as well.

- M. & J.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Working Mamas.

I only partially consider myself a member of the population of working moms.  I'm lucky enough to have a job that allows me a flexible schedule so my son never has to attend day care.  My husband takes care of him while I'm at work, and then we switch off.  I only went to my workplace 4 days a week, about 5 hours a day.  Right now, I'm on a very short break between Spring and Summer session 1.  Still, I'm pretty lucky that my needs were accomodated.  When I was nursing, I had office hours and very short days.  When I was pregnant, I organized my appointments around my work schedule.  My boss was very kind to hold my place for the spring, and when I decided I wanted to come back earlier, he was able to give me some classes.

That all being said, most working women aren't so lucky.  The link below takes you to the study that grades states on how they help working moms.  The most interesting, but sadly not surprising, trend is that the states that preach the importance of "family values" and pro-life ideals generally have the worst grades.  We live in an economy where to provide for our families, big or small, both parents generally need to work.  If we want moms to do what is best for their children, we need to support them in the workplace.

The Study

Courtesy of Mother Jones magazine
Something to think about.

- M. and E (who is a lucky little boy)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Oops!

Sorry for the unexpected hiatus!  These past few weeks have been a flurry of visitors, packing, grading, and crocheting.

Many of my followers are already aware, but I opened an Etsy shop two weeks ago.  If you're looking for cute and colorful crochet creations, look no further than Peachy Colleen Crochet.

We're going on our March for Babies walk tomorrow, and we are especially excited because we (slightly) exceeded our fundraising goal!  Our team, which covers more than one state and has a lot of members, raised over $23,000 for the March of Dimes.  My friend Liz is one of the top Philadelphia fundraisers.  We are walking in memory of her nephew, Dylan, and in honor of all the babies born too early or with other issues.  Our (thankfully brief) time in the ICN at Penn showed us what kind of work is being done to help all babies thrive, and we feel very connected to the cause.  If Elliott had stayed much longer in the ICN, I'm sure we would have benefitted from the March of Dimes in some way.  Anyway, we are so glad  we could help Liz and her family honor her nephew in such a big way.  Pictures coming soon.

Better get to bed!  Early morning and a full day.  As much as I love relaxing, more memories are made on full days.  :)

- M.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

One prolific chef.

Jason put up another recipe!

Cocoa Rubbed Steak and Baked Potatoes made for a delicious Saturday night dinner.

 - M.

Banana Cheesecake Muffins

Jason's first recipe posted over at One Sleepy Chef!  These muffins were amazing and fairly simple to make.

Mmmmm.

- M.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My sleepy chef.

Jason, who isn't a frequent writer here, has created a food blog to document his adventures in the kitchen. He is the far superior cook in our family, mainly because while I love eating, I don't really enjoy cooking. Fortunately, Jason loves to try out new and delicious recipes.  Check him out at One Sleepy Chef!

I'll also be posting links to the individual recipes.

- M.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Independence or: Riding with Boys on Trains.

When you're a mom with a supportive, helpful husband, it's easy to become used to always having that extra pair of hands in unusual situations.  Going shopping?  It's easy with two people!  Need to run to Ikea?  No problem with Daddy along!  I'm sure this changes as you add more kids to the mix, but for now, this is my reality.

30th Street Station, Philadelphia

My sister comes home this weekend for her spring break and Easter vacation, and I wanted to surprise her at the airport with my parents and Elliott, of course.  However, Jason has to work, so we'll be using Amtrak to get to Harrisburg.  I've taken this train probably one hundred times, since I used it in undergrad and grad school.  However, I've never done it with an infant, stroller, car seat, and baggage in tow.  I booked my ticket, and I called Amtrak to ensure I can actually carry-on all the things I need to.  When I did, the Amtrak rep also added a note to my tickets that I would need assistance, so Elliott and I will get to board early and have someone to help me get him and his things on and off the train.  Jason helped me get into the station and such at Philly, and my dad would be on the other end to do the same thing, but there are certain places non-ticket holders can't go.  I'm so glad I called ahead.

Here's my plan:
 - I have a travel system, so the car seat and Elliott can ride right in the stroller.  I'll use a backpack as my bag (Jason will be down on Friday, so I just need the necessities), and Elliott's diaper bag.  The only thing I'll actually need to carry is the car seat base (so we can ride in the car once we get to Harrisburg).

 - I will pack as light as possible for myself.  Normally I'd need things to keep me occupied on the train, but I think I'll have enough to pay attention to.  If I have room / weight to spare, I may bring a book or some crochet for the car ride to Baltimore.  Maybe.

 - I also packed as light as possible for Elliott, which is a whole different definition of "light."  I'll suck it up and wash bottles as needed so I can bring fewer along.  Bottles probably take up the most space in a diaper bag.

 - I booked the train so it will be after Elliott's first nap, but at a time when a nap is possible.  If he doesn't nap on the train, he'll sleep on the way to Grandma and Grandpa's, or on the ride to Baltimore.  He has some guaranteed nap times, basically. He sleeps really well in the car, and a lot of the sources I've read say similar kids sleep well on trains. I know I do.  Perhaps he'll take a cat nap!  (Edit: Nope.  No train napping.  Too many stops for him to get settled.)

 - I also brought my wrap, just in case I needed to part with the car seat and stroller on the train itself.  He also enjoys being wrapped, so if he gets fussy, it will help. I didn't need to use it this time, but it's a great option to have.

So, let's review and add some tips:

1. Call ahead and let the train line know you'll need assistance. They were very helpful and it made transitions on and off the train very smooth. At Harrisburg, they even let my dad come down to the train to help me.

2. Book in advance, if possible. You don't want to schlep down to the station with all this gear in tow to find that the train is too crowded.

3. Now is a good time to learn about minimalism in your own packing. It really helped me figure out what I REALLY use on a trip and what I don't. It was more beneficial to pack extra books for Elliott than to pack an extra set of clothes for me.

4. Don't forget the car seat base! You'll need that once you get to your destination. If you travel with any frequency, a car seat bag might help with this awkward item.

I hope this helps. What do you do to make traveling with your little ones easier?

- M.

Spring is here!

I never feel like it is spring until Easter.  There's something about the decorations, the cute dresses, and Easter traditions that really bring in the season.  I only like winter for Christmas and snow...and we didn't get much of the white stuff this year.  Boo.

My 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge is over.  While I did not complete it, I got the biggest problem areas of my apartment under control.  Between the post-moving purge from last May and my Lenten effort, I definitely have removed 40 bags from my house.  We got rid of at least 50 books, which doesn't look like a lot, and my closet is a little trimmer.  I'm happy with the progress I made, and I'm definitely going to do it again next year.

I had also planned on opening an Etsy shop today, but I want to have a little more inventory before I do that.  That being said, Peachy Crochet will open in the next week.  More updates once that happens.

Easter was so much fun, and I think Elliott really liked getting some new toys and hanging out with his 2nd cousins.  Last year in our family, three of us had babies, so they will grow up very close in age.  The few months between each one will seem less and less significant every year.

This was just a quick update.  The end of the semester is almost here, so my updates will probably be less frequent, since I'll have a ton of grading to do.  Eee.

- M. & J.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Update!

I got a teaching assistantship at Penn State for the 2012-2013 school year, meaning I'm fully funded AND I get a stipend for living expenses!  What a relief.  I'm so excited that I can completely be involved in school and not have to split my time between Penn State and other work during the school year.

If you prayed for me or kept me in your thoughts, thank you so much.

- M.

Frazzled.

Few women want to describe themselves this way, but this is the best word in the English language to illustrate the way I feel.  I'm sure German has a word for my real feelings; my ancestors have a word for everything.  It has been a crazy week paired with outside annoyances.  I feel like I might accidentally sleep through Easter break because I am so exhausted.

So, what have I been up to?  Plenty.

My 40 Days, 40 Bags challenge has taken a back seat this week, but I've continued to make progress.  During last week's summer preview, I got out my summer clothing and sorted through it.  Most still fits me, but a few items went into the charity bag.  I also got rid of 4 pairs of shoes so far.  I'm sure more will get the axe, but 4 are already on their way out of my home.  Jason and I also finally found all of our boxes of books and evaluated which ones needed to go.  We have two boxes and a bag of books to either donate or sell.  When we pack to move, I have to stow my American Studies books separately.  That way, if we're still living with a parent or have things in storage come August (and come funding), I can find the books I need quickly.

I'm still anxiously awaiting notice from Penn State about funding for the fall.  That alone is adding exponentially to my stress levels.

This weekend, I am attending a conference.  I knew this would be stressful, but outside factors have increased that.  A lack of communication and no shortage of disorganization has caused even the most seasoned veteran among us to feel confused about what is expected.  Everyone in our office is stressed, and on top of that, I am trying to write a paper, edit said paper, and create an effective presentation of my material.  Normally, I would just present my research, but they now want everyone to submit a finished work.  I edit my writing within an inch of its life, so I need every possible day.  This, along with the fact that my moderator hasn't communicated with me in any way has just added to my anxiety.  It's overnight too, and I'm bummed about leaving E for the weekend.

Otherwise, I've seen The Hunger Games, which I loved; I went out for a girls' night; and I've been working on a lot of crochet projects when I can to calm my nerves.  I'm designing my first original pattern and building an afghan around it.

Sorry for the absence.  I'll post more once this weekend is over.

- M.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, Sunday

The only day of the week that neither Jason nor I work is Sunday.  While it's supposed to be a relaxing day, it tends to turn into our most productive day.  Yesterday, though, was absolutely exceptional.  That being said, we still didn't get everything done that we wanted to.

We:

 - Did laundry.  It's harder than you'd think because we have to take the laundry to the basement laundry room in our complex.
 - Folded said laundry.  Did I mention we hadn't done laundry in two weeks?
 - Started organizing Elliott's closet.  I need to do a 40 Days, 40 Bags treatment on it, but at least I now know what I am dealing with.
 - I got a haircut.  I haven't had one in over one year.  Eek.
 - Did some light grocery shopping; We'll meal plan and do the big trip on Tuesday (followed by a trip to Rita's for free "First Day of Spring" water ice!)
 - Made baby food.  We tried pineapple (the book said 8 months was OK) and Elliott hated it.  It was just too much flavor for him, even though it was pretty mild.  Oops.
 - Finally got documents shredded.  Staples is running a deal that they will shred up to 5 pounds of documents for free.  We had 15 pounds of documents.  I went through the bag and only took the things that needed to be shredded and recycled the rest.

Pair that with meals and a fussy baby, and it looks pretty good.  It was nice to start the week off with a number of chores off the list.

I also finished Mockingjay.  I didn't love it the way I loved the first two books, but I still would read the entire series again in a heartbeat.  I'm moving on to finishing Condaleeza Rice's memoir that I started a few months ago.  Our book club meets on Sunday (at my place.  Eee.) and we'll pick a new book, so hopefully I get through a lot of her book quickly.

Fortunately, Saturday was really relaxing.  My parents came for the day and made Reubens.  We went for a walk, hung out and watched movies.  I feel like lately I don't get a day to decompress, so it was nice to have a fun, quiet day.  That night, Jason, Elliott, and I crossed the Walt Whitman to attended our friend Matt's 30th birthday party.  A lot of our friends who hadn't met Elliott yet were there, and we had a really great time.  I even made a date with Amy and Jess to see The Hunger Games on Saturday!

How was your weekend?

- M. & J.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Page turners.

 My posts have been sporadic because I've been reading.  A lot.

The book club I participate in decided that it's first choice (which I'm sorry to admit was my suggestion) would be Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe.  It's his memoir.  Most of the ladies in the group are fans of Parks and Recreation, The West Wing, or even the Brat Pack movies.  We thought "how interesting!  He was into drugs, sex, and everything else!  Scandalous!"  We were disappointed.  Well, the ones I've talked to are.  We haven't had our meeting yet, but I predict it will take us a few bottles of red wine to really analyze the book.  He glossed over all the stuff we wanted to hear all the scandalous details to, and instead became "the Forrest Gump of '80s Hollywood."  (Quote by E.B.).

Still, I read it quickly, and I am not a quick reader.  I wanted to start something else right away, but I was at my parents' house and all I found to read was an O magazine (the one I cited in a recent post).  When we got home, I decided to read The Hunger Games.  I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first, and a lot of my friends have told me how amazing it is.

I was not disappointed.  I was so not disappointed that when I was about 20 pages from the end of The Hunger Games, I got in the car and ran to Barnes and Noble to buy Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  I finished Catching Fire in ONE DAY.  I do not read things that quickly. The last time I completed a book in one day was July 2007 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

If you're looking for something to read, drop everything and read these books.  I know I'm late getting on this band wagon, but I love The Hunger Games series.  I haven't been this into a book since Harry Potter.  The world Suzanne Collins has created, 13 distinct districts and the Capitol, all fascinates me.  I don't want to give anything away, but the character of Katniss really appeals to me as well.  She is not a traditional young adult fiction character, but strong and responsible.

So, sorry for the absence, but it was totally worth it.  I'll probably finish Condaleeza Rice's memoir, which I got for my birthday, once I'm done reading Mockingjay.  I have a lot of books on my shelves that I've never read, so I better get to it.  You can track my books on the GoodReads widget to the right ---->.

- M.

March Madness!

I've never really followed the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness.  This is due in part to March always being a crazy month for my family.  In high school, it was the spring musical.  In college, it was the busiest social season for the Masque.  In grad school, it was (and is) conference time.  Now, March is anniversary / prepping to move / conference / midterms month.  March Madness has really never crossed my mind.  Not until my parents invited me to play the bracket with them this year.

I'm very VERY competitive.  It's sort of a shame I was never into sports, because my drive probably would have served me well (or gotten me ejected from a lot of rec center basketball games).  I know full well that the bracket is kind of up to chance.  A team can be seated at number 1, but if they have a bad night, they could lose to a #16 team.  Besides, you have to be good to get to "the big dance" anyway.  Surprises can definitely happen.

We don't have any money down.  In our game, everyone puts down what they want to win.  Nothing huge, but something fun.  I'm playing for a 1/2 bucket of hot wings at the Caddy Shack.  Mom and Dad are both playing for Stavros food.  I think Pappy is playing, but I'm not sure for what.  The prizes are just food, but very specific food.  The losers treat.

I'll let you in on my Final Four picks (I chose them because they are all number one in their divisions, and President Obama confirmed the strength of these teams by choosing them for his bracket...scientific, I know).

Final Four: Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Michigan State.
Tournament: Kentucky and North Carolina.
Winner: North Carolina.

As of right now, I have 7 points.  Go me.

I'll be posting soon as to why I've been absent this week...Oh, it's good.

- M.