Wednesday, March 28, 2012


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.


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.


 - 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.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I was not introduced to the gloriousness that is IKEA until post-college.  I had visited an IKEA here and there as a kid, but for a kid, this store is boring as Corn Flakes.  For an adult looking for inexpensive but sassy, modern furniture, it is the equivalent of a candy store.  As I look around my apartment right now, I can see 6 things from IKEA, and that's just from sitting on the couch.  I didn't move anywhere.

Everytime we move, we end up stopping at IKEA for some odds and ends we need at the new place.  I didn't think that would happen this last time, but moving day ended up including a very big trip to the greatest store ever.  While other, capable people were moving our things from the old house to the new apartment, my mom, mother-in-law, and myself went to IKEA and got two new dressers, an entertainment unit, and a paper towel holder.

I went yesterday to help my friend Carolyn pick up her new furniture for her sassy new place.  Elliott was as good as gold, which made the trip super easy.  I didn't intend on buying anything, but of course, we knew that wasn't going to happen.  I picked up a 12-pack of outlet covers and a set of very cute plastic placemats, all for under $5.  Woo!

They're birdies!

In short, I love IKEA and I'm sad that my next home doesn't have one nearby.  What will we do!?

 - M.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Causing the Clutter?

As I purge my apartment of things that are no longer useful to me, or in the case of my kitchen, expired, I have to wonder: how did it come to this?  My kitchen, as little as it is, yielded two very full kitchen trash bags.

I ponder this fact because frankly, as much pleasure as I'm getting out of this, I don't want this to be my permanent Lenten challenge.  Maybe every 5 years.  I want to get behind the psychological issues that prevent me from living a clutter-free life.  This month's O Magazine is all about organizing, and it informs many of these reasons.

1. The Thrill of Shopping: If you've ever played The Sims, you know that your Sim gets happy points for getting new stuff.  That's true in reality as well.  Everyone loves to buy something new once in a while, whether they need it or not.  Maybe it's a little notebook or a new pen.  Perhaps its something bigger.  Either way, I have to curb impulse buys.  I should enact the "one in, one out" policy.  Every time I buy something new, something else has to go.  With the kitchen, that's actually pretty simple.  When you run low on food, get more.  With meal planning, a lot less food will go to waste.

2. Left brain vs. right brain: Real Simple did an article a year or so ago about organizing for the left brain and right brain.  When most of us think of organizing, we tap into whatever left brained-ness we have and go to town.  Organizing really satisfies that side of the mind.  However, if you live a right-brained life, as I do, you have to cater to that impulse.  Rather than putting all of your shoes in one place, have a place for them where you usually need them.  For example, Jason and my running shoes live in the foyer, along with our boots.  I have a place in my bedside table for hair stuff and pens, because I always seem to need one.  Don't fight your natural instincts.

3. Emotional clutter: I'm amazed at how many sentimental things I had saved.  Movie ticket stubs for movies I hated; Valentines from people I'm not even Facebook friends with; and old school pictures that fit the same criteria.  It's a major reason that people let clutter into their lives (see: Hoarders), and it is definitely something to consider.

4. Informational clutter: Oh man, this is definitely part of my clutter issue.  Jason and I own close to 350 books.  Now, I am in academia and plan on using many of these books.  We are pretty voracious readers of both fiction (him) and non-fiction (me).  I've also saved a lot of term papers over the years, because I don't want to lose that research.  This has saved me a ton of work over the years.  Even if the topic isn't the same, many of the same issues arise, so I can turn to those papers.  They are organized in plastic pockets in a binder.  I also have an index card box that has all of my research organized.

My kitchen is now organized, and I managed to keep myself to one picture.  The fridge and cupboard aren't much to look at, but the pantry is so much more functional!

This makes me oddly happy.

Like things are with like things.  Elliott's food and supplies are all together, as are Barney's (and high enough that Barney can't scale the shelf and steal treats!).  Baking items and spices are with the mixer.  Paper goods are all together and easy to see, while other food additives are together.  I also used hooks from Ikea to hang the dust pan, plastic bags, and other items from the sides.  It's also organized, but doesn't allow space for other things to move in.  The kitchen clean out is also going to save me a ton of time come moving day.  The fridge is scrubbed, the shelves dusted, and I know what I need to use up before those days.

I enjoy writing about my version of homemaking and life, considering I'm a working mom.  So many lady blogs are by stay-at-home moms, or free-wheeling 20 something moms that I can't identify with.  I hope I can attract a specific audience who feels left out of the 20-something blog world.

- M.

40 Days, 40 Bags: Days 7 and 8 and...oh who am I kidding.

Another 40 Days, 40 Bags update!

The previous post should indicate that my free time (ha!) is even more limited now that a certain little someone no longer naps when it's just him and me at the house.  I try my best, and I get little things done in the time I'm waiting for him to cry it out, but big projects are more difficult to complete.  Anyway, I've started to catch up.

Day 7: My Dresser
 - Took everything out and tried to evaluate.  I'm still in post-baby weight mode, so things that were just a little too small stayed (especially the 6 pairs of jeans that I almost fit into).  The things that got ditched were the items I hadn't worn all winter, or even since last winter.  Not a lot there, partly because when we moved in April, I purged a ton.
 - My unmentionables drawer got a through evaluation, and I can now fit my jewelry boxes in there as well.  Woot!
 - I also have three stacking round "boxes" that I put socks, tights, and odds-and-ends into.  This is where I got stuck the other day.  The odd-and-ends box was really throwing me.  I couldn't figure out what to get rid of and what to keep.  I came back to it Saturday and had no trouble.  Weird.
 - I ditched socks without mates and the ones that had lost elasticity.

Trash Bag Total: One Target bag (trash), One Trader Joe's bag (GoodWill), and two Ziploc bags (one with stuff for Mom and the other is for Maddie).

Day 8: My small closet
*Our master bedroom has a big closet with sliding doors and another that's just normal-sized.  It's mainly storage, but it's also where I put my work clothes.  It makes getting dressed in the morning easier.
 - Re-hung and organized work clothes by type and color.
 - Donated this crazy pink dress (Halloween 2010: I was painted into it then!)
 - A few months ago, Jason and I had gone through all of our files and purged the papers we no longer needed.  Then we re-organized the folders, adding ones for Elliott.  Total damage?  15 pounds of paper.  Staples is having a free shred event this month, but the limit is 5 pounds.  Looks like I'll be making three trips.
 - The memory boxes are stored here, so that's done.
 - Jason has a box to go through.
 - Went through my programs and kept only the shows I was in or saw on Broadway (sorry Masque).

Trash Bag Total (including previous purge): One life-sized Barbie dress and three Target bags.

Day 9: Foyer / Organizer
 - Took everything off the organizer and dusted it (ew.)
 - Lint-rolled (makin' up verbs) the inside of each fabric cube.
 - Took out things that were too small for Elliott.
 - Threw out other nonsense (expired sunblock, local phone book, junk mail)
 - Replaced key basket with sassy wooden key bowl.
 - Re-purposed desk organizer so I can stop forgetting my sunglasses and GPS!

Trash Bag Total: One Target bag and a broken umbrella.

It may not look like a lot, but it is so much more functional.
Day 10: Front Hall Closet
 - I thought this would have a lot more to do, but I forgot that Jason and I had purged stuff from up here over the summer.  I just re-folded and organized the winter accessories (mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats).  Therefore, no picture.  There's nothing exciting here.

That's the extent of the update.  My desk is more or less done, but there are a still a few things to move around.

- M.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Moms Hating on Moms

I'll be honest; I can definitely have a "mean girl" mentality.  While its not nice, I enjoy sitting around with a couple of lady friends, drinking some red wine, and having a good old-fashioned bitch session.

That being said, I hate when moms hate on other parenting styles.  I just watched Mayim Bialik, star of Blossom and currently on The Big Bang Theory, on Nightline.  She was discussing her new book, Beyond the Sling, which discusses attachment parenting.  The definition of attachment parenting, or AP in the sassy parenting lingo, is a wide one.  It can include activities such as nursing, co-sleeping (however you define it), and baby wearing, among others.  Her brand is a little, well, extreme.  She is the poster-child, if you will, for AP.  It's a time consuming and very controversial method, but a lot of parents today subscribe to one aspect of it or another.  For us, we nursed as long as we could, and I am a firm believer in the benefits of wearing my kiddo.  Either way, I found myself being surprised about her parenting techniques...and a little judge-y.  Not cool, Megan.

That all aside, I am always shocked at the visceral reaction moms have to things they don't agree with.  As long as another mom isn't putting her kid in danger and it works for them, live and let live.  Moms should be supportive of one another.  Being a parent (mom or dad) is a tough job and having the rest of the world judging you doesn't help.

The internet shows both the best and worst of parental support.  The blog community allows moms to find like-minded folks and band together.  Comments, however, express the worst of the judgement.  I find that boards, like those on The Bump, illustrate both ends as well.  While many moms are there to lend an encouraging word, there are four more behind her to tell you what you're doing wrong and why you're an awful parent.

I felt like I had to get that off my chest.  Let's be good to each other, folks.  If I'm going to discuss parenting here, I'd hope my readers would abide by that simple idea.

- M.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Separation Anxiety

My sweet bunny is going through a very strange time right now.  We're dealing with some pretty insane separation anxiety, mainly during his afternoon naps.

Before, he would wake up around 9, take a nap at 10 or 11, get up again around 11 or noon, take another nap around 2 or 3 (this is the solid, 2 hour one I can depend on), and a small cat nap around 8, especially if his earlier nap was abnormally short or early.  Bed around 10:30.  We're on a late schedule as a family anyway, so this works for us (and our pediatrician).

Now, he takes his morning nap (because Daddy is almost always the one who puts him down for that one) and no more.  I got him to sleep for a total of 45 non-consecutive minutes in each of the last two days.  He does not like it if I put him down to sleep.  When Jason and I are both home, Jason can get him to sleep, but I can't.  If Jason tries to do anything with him when I'm home, Elliott is either distracted by me or gets upset if he watches me leave the room.

It wouldn't be too bad if I wasn't in the throws of midterm week.  I have A LOT of grading to do with grades due on the 12th.  If I don't get the time do complete my work, I get very stressed.  Forget the other projects.  I use the little time I have now to do quick clean-ups and make food, and most of that is while he's in his high chair.

Does anyone have advice for me?  Re-reading the above makes it sound like I'm the one suffering, but it's only because Elliott is so distraught.  Help?

- J & M.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cheesy Crab Goodness

Over at The Blog of MJ, she is trying out some new recipes for Lent.  If you're Catholic, you know that dinner planning becomes even more difficult when you can't have meat at all on Fridays.  I was raised Catholic, but Jason was not, so I do things for myself, but I don't ask him to be part of it.  I totally forgot last Friday, until I was talking to my parents on Saturday about the amazing burgers we had made the night before (oops).

Anyway, I have a couple meatless / fishy recipes that make the rotation in my repertoire, and I thought I'd share my favorites.

Cheesy Crab Soup, which is almost a chowder, is from the Red, White, and Blue Ribbon 2004 Cookbook.  It's really easy and so delicious.

1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely sliced green onion
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups of monterey jack cheese
1 (4 ounce) can chopped mild green chilies*
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup half and half
1 pound crabmeat
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Gradually add broth and cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes, or until thickened.

Stir in cheese, chilies, cumin, oregano, and cayenne.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  Stir in half and half and crabmeat.  Simmer, stirring often, for 6-8 minutes, or until heated through.

If you want more kick, use Pepper Jack cheese or some chopped Jalapeno peppers in the soup

Serves 6 - 8.  Great with tortilla chips to dip!

*We use Rotel tomatoes and chilies, sometimes hot and sometimes mild.  The tomatoes really add something, in our opinion.  

Hope this gives you something new for your Lenten Fridays.  

- J & M.