Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Been a While...

Judging by my absence, I bet you can surmise that I have been a busy bee since August.  When the semester started, I had three classes that I was taking and teaching one class.  In September, I added a Dancing with the Stars-style fundraiser to the mix.  I've been applying to conferences, jobs, and any opportunity that will help fund my academic endeavors come May.  

I have a lot of updates, but right now, I just cleaned out a closet, throwing away all kinds of expired things.  It was so satisfying, and I just want to bask in that happy glow for a few minutes.  Most of you know me in real life or follow me in other social media, so you're not lost as to what I've been up to.  

Pictures maybe...but expect more substantial updates and ponderings during Thanksgiving break.  Until then, I have a conference to prep for, fools.  

- M.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Thanks to my recent contribution to Early Mama, I have been getting a lot of new visitors!  To you I say: welcome!  Feel free to comment and say hello.

I'd love any suggestions on things you would like to hear about: parenting, higher education, crafts, and anything American culture.

Again, welcome!

- M.


See what I did there?

Actual blue sky from this summer.  
This week marks the slow transition back into the school year, although at this level, we don't really get the summer "off."  Granted, I don't go to work, but I had a new course prep, dissertation research, and a summer class.  Yesterday was my third graduate assistant orientation at school.  It really made me realize how long I've been at this campus, and how much financial assistance they have provided me.  A few new things, but more or less the drill is the same.  I got to meet some of the new assistants, as well as reconnect with some of the rising Ph.D. students who were previously Masters students.

Drawing with chalk in the backyard.
Considering how long the university summer is, I assumed things would pretty much be in order by now.  We are moving offices, thanks to some new faculty, and changing how we dole out assistant hours to some of the faculty (to prevent having a lot of unaccounted for hours at the end of the semester).  Well, neither new thing was sorted out.  The old tenants of our new offices are still there (school starts in less than a week) and the new hours weren't figured out either.  I really wanted to be able to provide E's sitters with some concrete hours, but seeing as I'm the only parent in the G.A. group, I'm not shocked this wasn't considered.  I don't pull the parent card much, but I will in this situation.  I need to have consistent hours that mesh with the schedules of my sitters.  I'm actually not concerned about that, but I have already determined that I will bring Elliott into the fray if necessary.

Garden Update: Our sunflowers bloomed, the cherry tomatoes are still producing, and I'm super disappointed by the beefsteak plant.  Perhaps it got too much water this summer (it has been really wet in our neck of the woods), but it has about 5 GIANT tomatoes that have not yet ripened.  Next year might only see cherry tomatoes in the garden.

Our sunflower attracted a bee.
Jason and I caught summer colds this weekend, so my productivity has been down.  I have to miss the last week of summer dance, and I hope I can just get the necessary things done by next Monday!

Before my cold showed up, I did go to the Mt. Grenta Outdoor Art Show again.  As always, it was a really fun time, and I actually bought a hand-made item this year (not a t-shirt or souvenir like years past).  It's a ceramic yarn bowl, which prevents your yarn from falling all over the place while you use it.  It sounds ridiculous, but using it keeps things orderly and untangled.  I would love to vacation at Mt. Gretna someday; it's almost like being transported back in time.

"Under the trees at Old Chataqua"

One of the adorable homes.

Inside the Jigger Shop, the delicious ice cream place.

A perennial favorite home to look at.

Beautiful flower from house above.

Metal and glasswork flower.  Just a taste of the pieces at the show.

Stained glass lamp in the Jigger Shop.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Big Blog News!

I'm officially a regular contributor to Early Mama, a blog that focuses on younger mothers in a world where a twenty-something mom is less common than ever.  My area of "expertise" is going to be student-parenting (it's kind of the only way I've ever known parenting), so stay tuned for all kinds of perspectives on that topic.  Michelle, the mama of the Early Mamas, has recruited some fascinating ladies to write for the blog, so please check it out more often than when I post.

Here is my first post, on getting ready to go back to school.

- M.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Meal Planning 101

After my latest post, I had a request to talk about HOW to meal plan.  Until I came up with this system, it was a pretty big pain in the butt, and we would frequently give up and order out.  In the first two weeks that we used the system, we did not order or eat out once.  We had dinner at our parent's homes, but that does not count as dining out.

Mandarin Pork and Rice
Step 1: Gather your resources
 - Figure out what is already in your cupboards.  This will prevent you from wasting food and from buying things you don't actually need at the store (which is how meal planning saves money).
 - Gather the recipes in your wheel house.  Don't try to learn to make a million new things.  Obviously you have seen what I can make (and that we have an unhealthy obsession with chicken), and we add a new recipe when we can.  Be realistic.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Step 2: Organize!
 - I have a board on our fridge that houses the schedule for the week.  It has places for five people's schedule, but obviously, there are only three of us (with schedules...Barney is super lazy).  In the bottom row, I write the dinner for the evening.  We all know what it is and can see how it fits into the schedule.
 - To make future meal planning easier, I got some blank 3" x 5" index cards.  On each card, I wrote a meal / entree and its ingredients on the front, and the procedure on the back.  Because I am a little anal retentive, I also coded the cards by the meat (or lack thereof) and grain contents.  If I didn't, we'd end up having a weeks worth of chicken or pasta dishes.  We try not to have consecutive nights of the same meat.  We also try to have one meatless night, or at least seafood.
 - Each week (whenever is good for you; we do this on Sundays), we plan the week's meals.  We set out the cards, make a grocery list, find coupons, and set aside the food we already have for those meals.  I was finding that I would accidentally use something to make lunch, or Jason would use it to bake, so if we set it in a special place, it doesn't get used.
 - For lunch, we eat leftovers and a few standards (deli sandwiches, hot dogs, mac and cheese, PB&J) so we also make sure to purchase those things and breakfast items.
Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

Step 3: Shop
 - Do not grocery shop without a list.  I repeat: DO NOT CROSS THE THRESHOLD OF THE STORE WITHOUT A LIST IN YOUR HAND.  Otherwise, all the planning is for naught.  On my list, I also note which things I have coupons for to make comparison shopping easier.  If the coupon requires a certain number of things to get the discount, I also note that on my list.
 - My kiddo is a pretty good sidekick for errands.  As long as I talk to him a lot and play, he has enough patience to last the trip.  I find it takes me longer to shop without him because I end up making impulse purchases, I wander in the store, and I have no reason to make the trip quick.  If your kids make the trip longer or whatever, see if you can avoid taking them on the big trip.  Go after your spouse is home and the kid is in bed.  Also, find out when the Senior Discount Day is and avoid that morning.
 - Unless you need delicate produce, try to get all of your ingredients in one trip.  This helps avoid smaller trips that tend to add up throughout the week.

Cayenne Lime Chicken and Mango Salsa
Once you've made the cards, meal planning and shopping for me takes about an hour and half total.  I'm definitely buying and wasting less because of this system.

That said, organization is a pretty personal thing.  You can get ideas from others, but making it work for you and your family is probably going to require some tweaking.

Stout Cupcakes
*Remember: If you are ever bored with your dinner plans and need a new recipe, check out the entries under "recipes" in the tag cloud.

- M.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Procrastination Station.

I have a long and not-so-proud legacy of being a procrastinator.  In high school, I remember a lot of panicked late nights trying to finish U.S. History IDs or Calculus homework (the latter of which will go down in my mind as THE WORST HOMEWORK EVER).  The only thing I probably did in advance of due dates was memorizing lines for plays and songs for musicals and chorus.  I still have nightmares involving not knowing my lines, songs, or dances for a show.  I haven't performed in over two years!

Summer iced tea.
The last two weeks have been a blur of finishing things that I've had MONTHS of free time to finish.  I am writing some encyclopedia articles for an online encyclopedia one of my professors is helping to edit.  I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to put some publication credits on my CV, and I'm also getting paid.  However, something held me back from starting these articles until July started.  Maybe I was afraid because I hadn't written something like that before.  Perhaps I felt like I wasn't the right person to compose some of the articles.  I'm not sure, but the experience has definitely resulted in some introspection.

Working smarter, not harder.
I'm ALWAYS happier when I got something done in advance.  Never have I regretted getting something done early enough to let me edit, revise, and maybe even turn it in before the due date.  As a M.A. student, I did this all the time, partly because I was unhappy and during the week, had little else to do but read and write.  I need to remember both the panic of waiting until the last minute AND the relief of having things completed on-time and without rush.  I used to believe that I produced better work when I waited, but I now know that is absolutely not the case.  The work I produced under the gun was good enough.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to undergrad (for a lot of reasons, but this is a big one) just to tell myself to work a little smarter.  Read for philosophy class.  Read in advance so I could have pre-class discussions with my very bright classmates.  I squandered some of the opportunities of being in the honors program, in that I didn't always connect enough with my classmates about the amazing ideas we were being exposed to.

Taking more time to appreciate beautiful things.
I'm very thankful that next week is our family vacation.  I will have a week to spend with my in-laws, my little family, and perhaps even my sister and her boyfriend.  After that, I have another week before anything school related starts.  I'm going to get my hair done.  I'm going to indulge in a pedicure with some of my grad school lady friends.  I'm going to host a play-date and do crafts with Elliott and his friends.  I need to be able to hit the ground running once school begins again, but I can't do that without a little decompression.

What lessons have you learned from procrastinating (or, if you are like my sister, from NOT procrastinating)?

- M.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


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Modern Happiness.

“The only time you should look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.” - Louis C.K.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt

These two quotes have been tumbling around in my brain a lot lately.  Despite all that I have, it seems easy to get sucked into a vortex of envy and loathing when one looks over the fence and sees all that green grass.  The Internet makes this easier than ever before.  Historically, there were always ways to tell what class a person was or what one suspected they had going on in their lives.  For a very long time, it was how one dressed.  This changed in the industrial age when ready-to-wear clothing made it affordable for everyone to dress like the class they wanted to be.  So, we had to find new ways to make each other feel inferior.  Cars, houses, appliances...I think the idea is clear.  Still, in the United States, we have deemed ourselves a "class-less society," which is laughable.  We all consider ourselves middle-class.  No one wants to be lower-class (whatever that means), but no one wants to be elite either.  

Thanks to the Internet, we can more easily see the things people have, partly because they spend time posting them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  So-and-so bought a house; him-and-her are having another baby; this-and-that are getting a promotion.  Suddenly you're sad because those people are doing the things you wish you could do.  Oof.  It's the worst.  It's probably weird of me to admit it, but from discussions with my friends, I know I'm not alone.  

But I have a full fridge (of weird food; it's been a strange meal week here), I have a car that runs and lets me listen to music on my commute, and I have a healthy family who makes me really happy.  I have a house to protect me when it rains, and it has enough space to let me grow tomatoes.  In short, I'm a really lucky person.  Why do I let the joys of other become my insecurities?  

I've made a promise to myself concerning self-improvement, as of late.  Most goals are tangible: get in shape; eat well; crochet; write 1000 words a day.  However, a few are mental, and most people will never notice they occurred, which is fine.  The above quotes pretty much sum it all up.  Be happy with the wonderful life I have and ensure that I'm doing what I can to lift others up.  Teaching helps me do that.  I do a little charity here and there.  I think my happiness will increase if I keep all this in mind.

I hope you enjoyed this little philosophical side-bar.   I'll get back to talking about crochet, gardening, and E in due time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Not-So-Secret Garden.

If you follow me on Facebook, which most of you do, you have been subjected to posts about my small garden.  I have never really attempted to have a garden, so I've been very excited about its successes.

First, there is nothing that beats eating food you've grown yourself, in terms of eating veggies.  Throw in some DIY veggie dip (just a packet of ranch dressing mix and an 18oz container of plain greek yogurt), and it's a fantastic afternoon of snacking.

Second, a garden is something I can share with Elliott.  Most of my hobbies are not 2-year-old friendly.  Crochet involves scissors, as does scrapbooking.  School certainly does not interest a toddler.  However, he has enjoyed watering and caring for the plants from the beginning.  He's obsessed with watering plants.  Both grandmothers have purchased little watering cans for him so he can help them with their flowers.

Here is our garden, or at least the plants we put in the ground.  Everything else comes up every year whether we like it or not:

Sunflower: My sunflower is really my pride and joy of the garden.  I cultivated it from seed, and despite somehow killing its greenhouse-mates, the sunflower came through strong and tall.  This is Elliott's plant.  When we water, I fill his can up and its a perfect amount for the sunflower.  It looks like it is getting ready to flower soon, which will be really exciting.

Sunflower plant today.

Planting day!  I got the seeds for $1 at Target.

Basil: My mom has been a big help with the garden, purchasing the rest of my plants as Mothers' Day gifts.  Basil can weather the heat of a PA summer and the occasional days when I forget to water.  I haven't "harvested" any basil yet, but it smells amazing.  PLUS: I have an adorable metal bird that helps me find it amongst the insane vines from my tomato plants.

Adorable basil marker (Jo-Ann Fabrics)

Can YOU find the basil?

Tomatoes: I have two varieties of tomato in my garden, cherry and beefsteak.  Tomatoes love sun apparently, because these suckers are tall and out of control.  I'm learning about determinate and indeterminate plants (indeterminate has vines), and about pruning.  I had to tie my beefsteak plants up so the vines grow up and not all over the poor basil.  My cherry tomatoes need to be re-staked entirely, since the cage I bought was cheap and couldn't handle the robust nature of my plant.  I've harvested 9 cherry tomatoes, but there are A LOT of tomatoes appearing every day.  Elliott is happy to help keep the tomato population under control.

Beefsteak plant in the quality cage.  It's almost 6' tall.

Ripening vine (these tomatoes have been eaten).

One of many fruitful vines.
So far, my first foray into gardening is a mild success.  Next year, I would like to expand my garden.  In addition to tomatoes and basil (or the pizza margherita garden), I would like to add peppers, potatoes, onions, mint, and one other herb.  I may even get crazy and add lettuce.  My Pappy has been advising me here and there.  He has always had an incredible garden.  He and my Oma lived off of a garden before it was cool and Pinterest-y.

Thanks for taking a little tour!

- M.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Today, Elliott Zachary is two!

Chatting on the phone.

Mike Wazowski grape platter
We had a party for him on Saturday with family and some friends.  It was Pixar themed, and he had an Up themed cake.

I find it difficult to believe that the little guy playing with his new Woody and Buzz dolls is two.  Sometimes, he seems older.  We joke that he's been two for a while.  I can't believe that two years ago, we were sitting with him in the ICN, learning to be parents to a kid on the outside.

Us as a new family.


E on his first birthday

We are such lucky people.

- M. & J.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Meal Plan: June 24 - June 30


I'm in a meal planning rut.  I have a number of go-to recipes, but I'm starting to look for some new, simple meals.  My summer class starts tomorrow too, so I need simple and something that travels well.

In that spirit, I'm going to try to post my meals for the week to inspire my readers (Hi Mom, Sara, and MJ).

Last Week:
 - Monday - Chicken Parm (Jason makes the most amazing chicken parm in our cast iron skillet)
 - Tuesday - Quesadillas (I went meatless with black beans)
 - Wednesday - Cayenne Lime Chicken with Rice and Mango salsa (one of my favorites)
 - Thursday - Burgers and red potatos
 - Friday - Dinner at J's parents
 - Saturday - Wendy's (we eat out so little anymore, and we had spent the entire day out and about)
 - Sunday - Dinner at my parents' house (Dad's burgers!)

This Week:
 - Monday - Nancy's Chicken Salad (It's not for sandwiches; it's a chunky salad with very little mayo)
 - Tuesday - Tacos (Beef tacos with DIY seasoning)
 - Wednesday - Crock Pot Pork BBQ (Jason cooks!)
 - Thursday - Cheesy Crab Soup
 - Friday - Breakfast for dinner (Pancakes, eggs to order, and bacon)
 - Saturday - Out of town
 - Sunday - ? (We almost always end up with leftovers, an invite out, or dinner with our parents, so we'll just move meals around if need be)

I only want to eat cold things for dinner, but that's pretty difficult.  The chicken salad was the perfect dinner for last night, so if you have any similar suggestions, I'd appreciate them.

- M.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Sleepy Chef's Workstation

Jason has developed a passion for cooking and baking over the last few years, and it is hopefully going to grow into a business in the next few years.  He bakes something good at least once a week, but it made our kitchen table into his workstation, meaning that we didn't have a kitchen table.

A few months ago, we purchased an Expedit bookshelf from the "as-is" section of IKEA.  It had a small cosmetic flaw, but is lovely otherwise.  We thought we'd use it as a bookshelf (duh), but over time, Jason realized it would make a wonderful kitchen storage piece.  

This weekend, my dad and Jason put on their toolbelts and got to work.  The biggest project was attaching the wheels.  They bought strong, silver wheels with locks.  

In total cost: 
 - Expedit bookshelf (AS IS): $35 (normally $90 for the 8-unit)
 - Expedit cabinet door: $20
 - Expedit insert with drawers: $25
 - 6 locking wheels: about $5 / piece

IKEA makes kitchen islands and carts with wheels, but nothing like this.  Even if we had bought the largest cart with wheels, we would have spent at least $100 more!

Really, it's just a matter of attaching the wheels evenly on the bottom of the bookshelf.  With the wheels, it's the perfect height, and when we don't need the extra counter space, we can roll it to the side.  

It's already in use!

The wheels.

- M.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Buzzing Around

I like schedules, especially, oddly enough, ones that other people dictate.  I can negotiate with myself to the point of getting nothing done, but if something outside myself is riding on getting a task completed, I'm motivated.  I like having solid deadlines.

This personality trait is something I'm trying to overcome.  I need to be more of a self-starter in my home life.  At school?  Well, graduation is my deadline and the sooner that happens, the sooner I get my life back.

I made a chore schedule (today was laundry day!), and Jason and I meal plan each weekend so we avoid getting lazy and eating out.  The only reason I've eaten out in the last week is because I went to Tyson's Corner with my parents and sister on Sunday.  As a couple, we probably won't eat out until possibly Saturday since we are going out of town.  However, we're going to a picnic, so we may not need to.

I have a list of things that I would like to get done before my summer class starts in a few weeks, and I made a lot of progress in the last week:

 - Started all of my commissions.
 - Started Elliott's crochet blanket for his big kid bed (for whenever that move happens...we're not messing with a good thing)
 - Purchased supplies for some DIY projects
 - Created meal planning cards (grocery list on the front, procedure on the back).
 - Cleaned out my closet and donated items (my sister benefitted with TWO dresses from White House Black Market).
 - Worked on school work

Nothing really completed, but I have finished the last few days feeling that the day was well used.

This isn't a recipe blog...but:

Tonight I made a crock-pot dinner (Chicken Lime Tacos) and a yummy dessert.

Chicken Lime Tacos

 - 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
 - 3 T. lime juice
 - 1 T. chili powder
 - 1 c. frozen corn (or canned)
 - 1 c. salsa
 - tortillas
 - (optional): tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, cheese, sour cream

1. Place chicken, lime juice, and chili powder in slow cooker on low for 6 hours.
2. Shred chicken and stir.
3. Add corn and salsa.  Let heat through.
4. Top with deliciousness and serve.

Black Bean Brownies

 - 1 medium can of black beans
 - Water
 - Brownie mix

1. Drain black beans and rinse both beans and can.  Preset oven to 350 (or what your mix recommends)
2. Replace beans into can.
3. Fill can with water (with the beans inside).
4. In a processor, bullet, or blender, puree beans and water.
5. Mix in with brownie mix.  Do not use oil or eggs!
6. Pour into pan (I used a 8" x 8")
7. Bake for time recommended for pan size (mine took about 40 minutes).
8.  Let cool and enjoy!

I also put some sprinkles on, but that's because the blog I got the recipe from showed the brownies with sprinkles and it looked so good.  These are very fudgey and dense, so be aware.  They are REALLY good with ice cream (kind of like Dairy Queen's Oreo Brownie Earthquake).

Have a lovely week, and see you back here soon!

- M.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Craft Blog

I've decided to move my craft posts to a dedicated blog, so check it out!

Crafts Ahoy!  will have posts about crochet (duh) and other craft projects, including some DIY projects and inspiration.  Once I start creating patterns, one can find / order patterns through the site as well.


 - M.

PS: I'll link certain posts from here, but I'd love some followers on the craft blog.  :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fire Under My...Well, You Know.

Last month, on "Like Singer With a Y:"

 - Megan was recovering from a wicked eye infection.
 - All three of us (and our two favorite sitters) were getting over a stomach virus.
 - Megan was pulling her hair out over candidacy, teaching, and everything in-between.

One month later, you are looking at (reading about?) totally different people.

Candidacy Exam
The candidacy exam was easily among the most intense academic experiences of my life.  Three hours, no less than 2250 words (mine ended up being around 2500), and three questions to exhibit ones qualification as a Ph.D. candidate.  It was a really surreal day.  I got to school an hour and a half early to do a final round of studying and to avoid getting stuck in traffic (it rained ALL DAY that day).  Only three other people took the exam in the morning with me, so we were able to spread out in the computer lab and really focus.  When I initially looked at the questions, I did not feel confident, but I just started writing about what I knew, and I later filled in the gaps.  Afterwards, I went out for lunch with Becky, gave my final exam to my students, ate dinner, read all of Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and waited for the evening session to let out.  We all went out together after, which was fun, despite how angry and tired we all were.

Long story short: I passed, and I am now a PhD candidate.  Whoo!

My eye has been problem free for a month and a half, allergies have been out of control, and we all recovered from the stomach flu.  Elliott took the longest, and we even took him to the pediatrician, who put him on the BRAT diet.  Bread Rice and Toast.  No milk.  That was the hardest part.  Milk was upsetting his stomach, but he didn't understand that and wanted the comfort of milk.  Poor E.

Academic summer has begun!  After I finished grading, I went to Philly for a friend's bachelorette party, which was a much-needed release.  I've read two books for fun!  I read Kaling's memoir, and I just finished The Help, which was very good.  I started J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy last night, and I love it already.  I love books about intrigue in small British villages, or just the everyday lives of fictional Brits.  If you are looking for a cute read that fits that description, also try Deric Longden's The Cat Who Came In From the Cold, not to be confused with the mystery novel.

My mom and I planted two tomato plants last night, so I'm hoping to have some cherry and beefsteak tomatoes come July and August.  I could eat summer tomatoes all day, especially with a little salt and pepper.  Mmm.

Finally, I've been organizing my office to be craft / dissertation central.  I just finished a project that I would post here, but it is a gift for someone.  I'll post it later.

Those are our updates!  I'll try to update more often now that summer has arrived in our house.

- M.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Delicate Balance.

Just after my "look at my meal planning skills" post, the delicate balance that is our life was ruined.  Only just this week were we able to get back to normal.

First, I got an eye infection.  Even my eye doctor is stumped as to how it happened, but it took three weeks of medication and almost daily appointments to get it to go away.  I was fortunate enough to have no vision loss, but the whole ordeal was very painful (I took stronger painkillers than after I had E) and I'm now attempting to go three months without a flare up.

As I was recovering from that, I also had two conferences to attend.  I was well enough to present at both, and my doctors Ok'd the time away from them.  They were fun, and the second one (4 days in Washington DC) was super relaxing.  I also got to spend a lot of time with the students and faculty from my program, who are amazing, so that just made recovery a little easier.

In the three days between conferences (just three...) Jason was suddenly struck with an awful stomach bug.  He was so sick, and I had to leave before he even went back to work.  Then I got a flat tire.  It was also the week before Easter, so once he recovered, he had a lot of baking to do.  Easter itself was quiet (which was fine) and we had a little indoor egg hunt for E.

That next week, while we were just recovering from the last few weeks, Elliott got the stomach bug and after I went to Philly for an improv team reunion, I got it.  We also passed it to both of E's baby sitters.  Yeesh.

We are back on a healthy swing, which is good because the end of the semester is here and there is a lot to be done.  Grading, reading, studying, writing, and even the March for Babies.  I will be so happy to see May 1st roll around (my last day of classes / finals).

As can be expected, there will be a little radio silence on this end.  See you in a few weeks.

- M.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I am La Salle.

La Salle University just made it into the Sweet Sixteen.  The end of the game was so intense that I was hiding in my La Salle blanket because I just couldn't watch.  Only Jason counting the seconds aloud and the cheers that went up let me know the game had ended in our favor.

I have always enjoyed college basketball.  My father attended a school that went to the "Big Dance" from time to time, and we went to a Mount or La Salle game occasionally.  I went to maybe 4 La Salle games in my time there, partly because I was just so busy, and the energy around the team didn't pull me in.  I went to a few games while I taught, mainly as something to do while J was at work.  One of my colleagues in the history department is the team's "spiritual advisor," so I went to the game honoring  him last year.

The team was on fire this year.  Big upsets, exciting games: It made me miss being on campus.

Most people where I live now hadn't heard of La Salle until A) they met me or B) this past week.

They have now.

I'm so excited for the possibilities the Big Dance opens up for a school like La Salle.  Alumni donations, enrollment, recruitment, and the positive PR is something a long time coming for this wonderful school.

Now that folks have heard of our men's basketball team (GO EXPLORERS), they may now hear about the nurturing community, award winning Honors Program, and all of the other perks that come from a La Sallian education.  Schools like La Salle don't live and die by a sports program (although it doesn't hurt).  We rely on something deeper, something bigger than ourselves.  The values of St. John Baptiste de La Salle tie us together in ways that sometimes take us years to realize.  I can list at least 20 people that I know who found their spouse at La Salle (myself included).  Friends made here are friends for life.

2013 marks the school's 150th anniversary, founded in the midst of the American Civil War.  We have survived wars (when our students were only men); we have reached out all over the world to make life better for the less fortunate; we have academic credentials that impress (98% med school acceptance rate and 50 Fulbright Scholars, to name two).

In short, I hope the Big Dance shines the light on a school that deserves a second look.  I loved my times on campus (student and faculty), and I am eager to return one day (either as faculty or as a parent).

In all my actions, I am La Salle.
In association, we are La Salle.


LLP and I leaping for joy on campus, 2009.

Graduation, May 2008.
 - M., class of 2008.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I'm not a fan of pre-made spaghetti sauce (or gravy, as my Italian friends call it).  My mom has almost always made spaghetti sauce herself, and the recipe she has is easy and so so so tasty.  In another installment of my recipe sharing:



2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves fresh)
Sweet Italian sausage (optional)
3 lbs. crushed tomatoes (2 of the really big cans)
3-6 oz cans tomato paste
Basil (fresh or dried
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. thyme

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (85/15 or 80/20 suggested)
1 egg
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 Tbsp. parsley (dried)

1. In a large sauce pan, pour olive oil.  Brown the garlic.
2. Cut the sausage on an angle into 2" chunks.  Brown in the olive oil / garlic mixture.  Remove the sausage, put in a dish, and refrigerate.
3. Add crushed tomatos and tomato paste.  Add three 6-oz cans of water.  Add spices, stir, and simmer.
4. Preheat the oven to about 425 degrees F.
5. Mix the meatball ingredients together by hand (it's super cold...be aware).  Make the meatballs into whatever size you like.  For me, this usually makes 12 meatballs.
6. Replace the sausage and meatballs into the sauce and let simmer for a few hours.

My mom and I always agree that the sauce actually tastes better after it has been refrigerated over night and reheated on the stove.  We don't know why; it just does.

Hope you enjoy!

- M.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Strawberry Chicken Spinach Salad

Last night's dinner was a delicious and fresh change from a lot of the wintery foods we've been eating.  I'm so happy to go into the produce aisle and see some of my favorite fruits back in season.  Strawberries are a favorite of all three of us, especially E.

All the ingredients, minus the chicken, which was cooking.

As promised, here is the (very very easy) recipe:

 - 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 per person, really)
 - 10 strawberries, washed and sliced how you please.  Obviously, since this is a salad, you can use as many or as few as you like.
 - Goat cheese (we didn't have this last night, but I've used it before to great success)
 - 1 bunch of spinach (again, as much as you please.  This is your salad base)

(For the Poppy Seed Dressing)
 - 1/2 cup sugar
 - 1 cup vegetable oil
 - 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
 - 1 t. salt
 - 1 T. poppy seeds
Not from last night, but just a vision of amazing strawberries.

1. Grill the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  We discussed potential marinades last night, but didn't have a chance to test any.  Let us know if you try one!
2. Wash and slice strawberries.
3. Wash and dry spinach.
4. Mix dressing ingredients into a bowl or salad dressing container.  Be sure you can re-seal it, because it makes a lot of delicious dressing.
5. Plate your food: Spinach, strawberries, sliced chicken, cheese, dressing.


The longest step for us was defrosting the chicken.  It's easy and fresh, and a whole meal on one plate.  We gave E pieces of the meal, and supplemented with some other easier to eat foods (grilled chicken is too chewy for him still).

 - M.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Meal Planning

My crazy schedule, which just got a little nuttier, doesn't allow me to eat at home much during the week.  I have dinner on Monday and Friday at home and lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We usually plan a home-cooked meal for Monday and order in on Fridays.

This week, however, is spring break, which means that I am home all day, everyday.  I decided to plan some meals so we'd have left overs for next week.  In addition to sharing our plan with you, I'm also going to share the recipes!  I'm not a confident or adventurous cook, so rest assured these are pretty simple.

Here's our plan:

Monday: Strawberry Chicken Spinach Salad, with home-made poppy seed dressing

Tuesday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (and side salads)

Wednesday: Cheesy Crab Soup (probably the last one until the fall)

Thursday: Chicken Broccoli Divan

Friday: Oh...we're still eating out.  Probably Neato Burrito.  It's a local chain that's kinda like Chipotle.

I'm going to try to make some different snacks with left overs.

Today, Elliott and I enjoyed Pillsbury crescent rolls with peanut butter and Nutella in them.  Mmmm.  Sweet, but the peanut butter packs protein!

Hope you enjoy this series.  I'm also trying to get a handle on my school work and teaching.  I was assigned an "emergency" class, so I'm prepping for that.  I know life will be crazy this month with new classes, club events, and conferences (two!), so the more I get done in advance, the better.  Even if I get nothing else done, what I've finished so far this weekend is going to set me ahead.

Happy Spring Break!

- M.

Irish Soda Bread

I'm divulging a McGee family recipe today that I think you will really enjoy.  With St. Patrick's Day coming up, it's always nice to enjoy a sweet treat in between all that corned beef, cabbage, potato, and green beer.  Irish Soda bread is a good breakfast treat, or something for the end of the day.

The keys to amazing Irish Soda Bread.

Mixing the dry ingredients.
 - 3 cups unsifted flour
 - 1 tsp. baking soda
 - 1 tsp. baking powder
 - 2/3 cup sugar
 - 1 tsp. salt
 - 1 1/2 cups raisins

 - 2 Tbsp. melted shortning (or unsalted butter)
 - 2 eggs, whipped
 - 2 cups buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, or can't find it, here is a substitute.  Make enough to substitute 2 cups.)

1. Remove all refrigerated ingredients to allow them to come to room temperature.
2. Preset oven for 350 degrees F.
3. Mix dry ingredients together.
4. One at a time, mix wet ingredients into dry mixture.
5. Grease your dish.  I use dark brown glass dishes; one is a loaf pan and the other is an 8" x 8" dark brown glass dish.  They seem to use the batter perfectly.  My mother uses small aluminium or metal loaf pans to give the bread as gifts. A single recipe makes about 4 small (5" x 3") loaves, while a double recipe makes about 9.  Fill the container about 2/3 full.  They will get bigger, so don't overfill!
6. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Check with a toothpick to ensure the bread is cooked through. (If you are using smaller containers, cook for about 35 minutes).

You're done!  I enjoy Irish soda bread with the smallest amount of unsalted butter.  It's what my grandma used to put on top, so its nostalgic.

Happy (early) St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Have to Wonder...

The room that needed the most rehab this year is our office.  It is, to be blunt, a hot mess.  I do very little work in there because it is too cluttered and too distracting.  I've been working on it little by little.  The main question I ask myself in this situation is "why did I EVER save this?"

I talked about why our lives are cluttered in this post from last year, and the clutter in my office definitely falls under the category of "emotional clutter."  It's old school notes that I never intend to look at again (although I organized the ones that will help me in the future).  It's random handouts and flyers and posters for events that don't even warrant a page in my scrapbook.  There is at least 15 pounds of paper waiting to go out in the recycling tomorrow.

I'm on Spring Break right now; I'm hoping to get caught up on both schoolwork and organizing this week.  I definitely need the break.

- M.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Eyes and other things.

My last post indicated the intention to get sh-tuff done this week.  I can't tell you how disappointed I was when the rest of my life had other plans.

On Monday night, my right eye was itchy and watery.  I just assumed it was tired, and I put some drops in it.  Tuesday morning, it was swollen shut and painful.  I knew what this was.  Another corneal abrasion.  A trip to the doctor confirmed it, but I had to be referred to a specialist because one is not supposed to get random cuts on ones eye.  Eww.

I have relied on the kindness of parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends to get through my week.  I couldn't drive, which I only discovered after getting to school on Wednesday, so it's been a rotating series of drivers taking me to appointments, class, and work.  When I was home, it took all of my energy to do things around the house, because light, screens, and general movement aggravated my condition.  I should be in tip-top shape come Monday, but I am definitely more committed to keeping my eyes healthy anyway I can.

Suffice it to say, 40 Bags got a little turned around.  I took Friday off from life.  E went to his usual Friday haunt, and I slept, recovered, and starting getting back on track with everything.

We'll just pretend things happened when they were supposed to: (because they did get done at all)

Wednesday: Electronics.
 - Removed all of the apps I never use (or have on my tablet, which is what I use for portable internet access).
 - Removed music that I always flip by
 - Removed playlists that were created for no reason.
 - Loaded some sweet Sesame Street tunes for the little man.
 - Created some better play lists so I can make my battery last longer (by not flipping through the library).
 - Before adding the playlists, I freed up over 1 GB of space!

Thursday: Needlecraft supplies.
 - Detangled EVERYTHING.  I feel like yarn has a mind of its own and tangles with the other skeins in the drawer when I let them alone too long.
 - Reorganized the yarn by fiber.  One (very full) drawer of cotton; one of worsted; one bag of scratchy worsted; one drawer of higher end yarns; one drawer of other acrylic weights; one drawer of miscellaneous; and one drawer of finished projects awaiting shipping, purchase, or gifting.
 - Put my unfinished projects in shallow boxes on top of the drawers so I see them and get the itch to work on them.
 - Put the huge skeins of yarn in plastic bags and hung them with hangers from the bar in the closet.
 - Cleaned out my notions caddy and took stock of my hooks (all accounted for except F...I'll find it).

Saturday - Sunday: Kitchen.
 - Cleaned and stored Elliott's bottles.  We are officially off bottles.
 - Moved mugs, tea, coffee, and sugar to a cupboard next to the coffee maker.
 - Opened up two shelves.
 - Threw away a bunch of expired hot drink mixes.
 - Re-arranged Jason's baking supplies.

I also went shopping on Saturday with my mom and sister, and I found the storage pieces I've been seeking for a while.  I found a storage box for toys (that can double as a seat), two cute basket hampers for blankets, and an umbrella stroller (which will open up a lot of room in my trunk!).

*This post is crazy late, but I really haven't had the time to type it up.  I'll talk about this past week ASAP*

- Meg

Monday, February 11, 2013

Action is the foundation of all success.

That quote, in a beautifully designed desktop wall paper I found through How About Orange, has been my inspiration for the last week or so.

It may sound as though I'm being hard on myself, but I really could be more productive.  I could find better ways to do certain things, and I could watch a lot less TV.  Still, my intentions are good that that has to count for something, right?

That all said, 40 Bags 40 Days starts this Wednesday!  I have my first few days all figured out.  Unlike Sarah over at Clover Lane, I count weekends because they allow me to tackle the big projects (re-configuring the kitchen; dealing with the attic; beautifying our yard).  However, that gives me days off during the week.  I'm also going on a few conferences just before Easter, so those days are lost.

 - Wednesday, 2/13: Digital devices.  Move music around, remove unused apps, clean the screens, and get my portable life in order.
 - Thursday, 2/14: Needlecraft supplies.  I like starting with this, since it makes my goal to finish crochet projects a little easier.  I'd like to think this will be quicker than last year, but I'm not so sure.
 - Friday, 2/15: Main bathroom.  The shelves are cluttered and not as useful as I wish, and the area underneath the sink is not great looking either.  This is mainly an issue of a deep clean.
 - Saturday and Sunday, 2/16-2/17: Kitchen!  Now that we've been in our house a while, we know where things should be in order to be more efficient.  I'm especially excited about creating a coffee and tea station.

I'll try to get as many before and after pictures as possible, but these posts can get monotonous.  Therefore, I'll be keeping them to Sundays.  If I can find a way, I want to link up other home organization efforts with my own.  I'll let you know if / when that materializes.

- M.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

10 Days!

It's only 10 days until the beginning of 40 Bags, 40 Days!  My excitement is really at its height now; our landlord is renovating our powder room and mud / laundry room starting tomorrow, so I'll have a really fresh start in those two areas of the house.  Otherwise, I'm finding all kinds of things to be done, but I'm putting them off until the 13th because I just don't have the time right now.

February is turning into a very busy, but very fun, month.  Lots of birthdays, including Jason's, the Oscars, and a Ladies Day Out with the graduate school ladies.  I'm psyched.

To play hard, one has to work hard, so this is a sort and sweet entry.  I leave you with some pictures from our weekend.

My mom and Elliott.

It was my Oma's 80th birthday!

My cousin Madison and the newest addition to our extended family, Taylor.
 - M.

Monday, January 28, 2013

March for Babies 2013

If you were following me last year, you know that our family walked in the March for Babies in memory of the nephew of our good friend Liz.  This year, I am at it again, walking once more for the Devoted to Dylan team.

Last night I played charity trivia for our team, and we won!  I was able to kick off my efforts with a $350 donation, which is 75% more than I raised in total last year.

If you have the means, we would love a donation to our walk team.  My goal this year is $500, so I only have $150 more to go.

The March of Dimes works to fight pre-term births and to help work for healthy moms and babies.  Our own Elliott spent a few days in the NICU with a minor infection and low blood sugar.  While we were in the hospital, we saw first hand what NICU moms and dads go through and how the March of Dimes supports those families.  The organization started as a group to help fight polio, otherwise known as infantile paralysis, in 1938 by President Roosevelt, who himself suffered from the disease.  Once the disease was eliminated from the US in the late 1950s, the organization rebranded itself to help with infant health.

- M.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Winds.

In our last post, I noted how beautiful the weather was and how energized it made me feel.

Elliott is a little stir crazy...

Forget that...it iced and snowed this week, and my energy is sapped.

I tried to overcome it somewhat with my new camera and some neat-o pictures.  However, the weather also made driving super scary.  I wish I could hibernate until March, when life warms up again.

Our front door is ready for Valentine's Day.

I'm looking forward to 40 Bags, 40 Days, and I hope others will join me.  It will help make winter go by a little faster.  Winter is also needlework weather, so that brings a silver lining to this snowy cloud.

Adorable yarn!  Bonbons from Lion Brand.

- M.