Friday, October 28, 2011

My Dream Home--Kitchen Part I

(It is high time to get blogging again!  I have about eight almost completed posts just waiting to be put out for all the world to see.  Here's the first one!)

I loved being a homeowner and I cannot wait to own again!  I suppose renting has some advantages; when we had a mold issue maintenance came and replaced the drywall and painted--free of charge and we don't have to mow the lawn, but I am incredibly eager to move on.

My dream home is a fixer-uper.  I love watching shows on HGTV and the DIY network.  I enjoy wandering around Home Depot and Lowes as much as any mall or clothing store.  It might sound silly, but I am really hoping that when we are in a position to buy again it won't make sense to buy a new or recently remodeled house.

I recently discovered the Lowe's virtual room designer tool--and I've been having fun with it!  Of course, for whatever reason, it keeps crashing in Chrome, so I have to switch to Firefox.


Today I am going to focus on my dream kitchen.  Here are some of the things that caught my eye while perusing the virtual aisles of Lowe's:

I love the look of granite.  I generally like the darker shades.  I think that these three look really sharp:

I also want to have a fun back-splash.  I want it to add something to the overall room.  Maybe color, maybe texture, maybe depth, maybe something like these:

Of course, I also like these:

It is going to be so hard to decide when the time comes.  Of course, I am sure Peter will (and does) have plenty of opinions as well!

We will undoubtedly have strict budgetary guidelines, but my husband (and his family) have a knack for finding amazing deals--so who knows, my dream kitchen could just become my reality.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Thumbs Up for Delta and TSA

It seems like almost all customer service stories that I hear these days are horror stories, especially when it comes to air travel, so I would like to highlight some excellent service I recently received.

Catherine (not quite 16 months) and I flew from Baltimore (BWI) to Cincinnati (CVG) for a long weekend to visit my parents.  We used Orbitz to score good airfare on a direct Delta flight.  I was a little nervous, because it was going to be Catherine's first flight.  

Online check-in was a breeze, once I arrived at the airport I just had to find the correct gate--which only took a minute.  I had been dreading the security screening--I had my carry on bag, the diaper bag (with bottles of milk), the carseat and stroller travel system, and a curious toddler.  I just wasn't sure how it would go.  Would the TSA people hate me?  Would other travelers hate me?  Would I be holding up the line?  Would Catherine be friendly or screaming?   Would the milk have to go through extra testing?  How was I going to get the stroller and carseat up on the conveyor belt without letting Catherine loose?  The guy who did my screening at BWI was super nice.  He patiently waited for me to get all the bags up and then said that he would hand check the stroller and carseat--which was much easier for me!  Our hands were swabbed (for possible contraband?); and the milk went through without any issue.  Once at the gate the Delta agent helped me "pink tag" the stroller, carseat, and my bag.  He gave me the option of boarding first or last--I opted for first since I knew that I had the row to myself and that would give me time to get situated.  He even helped me detach the carseat and fold up the stroller.  

The flight itself was painless.  The stewardess was very kind.  I was extremely lucky and Catherine fell asleep before the plane even leveled off!  (I didn't give her the bottle until we were seated on the plane and while we were waiting in the terminal we went for lots of walks.)  She woke up as we landed.

The return flight experience was fairly similar.  The TSA agent in CVG did want the stroller and carseat to go through the main  machine, but he kindly helped to lift them onto the belt.  They did do extra testing on the milk, but it only took a second and they did not need to open any of the bottles--they just swabbed the outside and put it in a machine.  Catherine was a bit more fussy while waiting to board, and way more adventurous in wanting to explore the airport.  The gate agent switched my seat so that no one was sitting next to me and helped me board first.  

Once again, Catherine napped during the flight and the stewardess was very accommodating.

Overall, I had a very pleasant travel experience.  The TSA and Delta employees did a few simple things that really helped me.  The TSA people were patient and helpful--hand checking the stroller and carseat in BWI was much easier for me, and at CVG it was very helpful of the gentleman to get them onto the belt.  The Delta folks getting me seats by myself was fantastic, assisting me with the valet tagging, getting me on board first, and their just general helpfulness made the whole trip easily manageable with a toddler.  

No one person did anything major or surprising, but all of the small things added up to a great trip and I feel that I received top notch service, and for that I am very thankful.

Blogging, How I Have Missed Thee!

I have been seriously negligent in posting lately.  I am not sure what happened to my three times a week goal.  Anyways, I am going to be better now!  I have a bunch of drafts and ton of things I'd like to write about floating around in my head.  I just got back from a trip and my wonderful husband has cleaned the house--so I have a little more "free" time this week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What/How To Teach a Toddler?

I wrote this post three months ago, and--for some strange reason--never got around to posting it.  


My sweet little girl is getting so big!  I honestly can't believe how fast she is growing up.  This of course presents me with new challenges; with one of the greatest being how to begin her education.

Yes, she is only 15 months old, but I believe it is important to cultivate an early love of learning.

There are so many books, articles, internet forums, etc. dedicated to helping you to help your child learn.  However, it is incredibly hard to weed through them and find any black and white guidelines.  And, as everything regarding child raising, what to teach/how to teach/when to teach your child is highly controversial.

So what's a Mommy to do?

For now I try to fit "learning time" in throughout the day.  We do flashcards with colors, numbers, first words, and shapes.  We sing songs.  We say prayers.  We play the Naming Game (I hold Catherine and we dance around the apartment and name everything--seriously, everything--from the couch to the Progresso can of French Onion Soup).  We read books.  I try to narrate everything I do--"Mommy is washing a cup with a sponge and soap and hot water..."

But I can't help wondering sometimes, is this enough?  Should I be doing more?  If so, what?

We don't color or draw yet--she still would rather eat the crayons.  I don't do programs such as Your Baby Can Read--I'm certainly not against it, but it is a little expensive and has mixed reviews.  I don't have many Montessori approved toys--although I do need to do more research into this method of teaching/learning.  I don't do baby signing--I got some books and dvds from the library and tried it for a little while but for whatever reason it was short lived.

Like every Mommy out there, I just want the best for my little girl!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Boo to Recap Episodes

There are some things in life that are just plain annoying.  One of the (smaller and doesn't really matter at all in the grand scheme of things) things that I find aggravating are recap episodes to t.v. shows.

You know the ones that I'm talking about.  They are a montage of previous scenes mashed together--some better than others--in an effort to "catch the viewer up" with anything that he might have missed.  However, there is little to no progress in the show's story arcs.

Personally, I find them insulting.  If I care enough about the show to be watching it in the first place I already know the back story.  I don't need an entire episode to remind me.  Maybe a brief "last time on" at the beginning of an episode could be helpful if there is a particular tricky or pivotal plot development.  (Shows that I have found a brief recap helpful on include, but are not limited to: Battlestar Galactica, DS9, and Lost.)

I currently watch most of my t.v. shows from Hulu or Netflix, so when there is a recap episode I normally just skip it. Or read a book, clean, cook, etc. with the television on in the background.  With the shows that I watch weekly (such as The Office) it would be immensely disappointing to tune in to a recap.  All that anticipation would be for nothing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wow, October Already?

Man, time sure flies these days.

I can remember when the days were long, weeks took a while, months took forever, and a year was equal to an eternity.

Now, I feel like a day passes by in a blink, a week is gone before you know it, a month could easily pass before I get to item #5 on my to do list, and a year is short.

(I recently read this brief article about the time moving faster phenomenon; I agree with the idea that it has a lot to do with "firsts".  The more unique an experience the more lasting the impression.  However, that still doesn't explain how the little baby I just gave birth to will be 15 months old on the 3rd!)

Anyways . . .

It's October.

October has always been one of my favorite months.  My birthday is in October.  The weather is generally pleasant--not too hot and not too cold.  (Of course, there are always exceptions--like the year there was a blizzard the day after my birthday!)  I love the autumnal palate of reds, oranges, and yellows.  The academic routine (always a part of my life) has settled down and become normal once again.  I love the crunch of leaves.  I love that it isn't too hot to wear jeans.  I love that it is the month of the Holy Rosary.

And, of course, one of the best things about October?  Halloween candy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Couple of Thoughts on "The Biggest Loser"

It's Tuesday, which means that The Biggest Loser will be on NBC tonight.  The Hubby and I will most likely switch between that and the Phillies game this evening.  (And I am thinking that we might even fit a game or two of Carcassonne in there somewhere!)  A lazy, relaxing, fun evening--which is exactly what I need tonight!

I like the Biggest Loser.  I think that it is reality t.v. with a very positive and motivating message: to get fit and healthy.

The show has had its fair share of controversy.  People say that the contestants lose too much too quickly; that it is unrealistic; that they won't be able to maintain their weight loss; that the trainers use faulty methods; etc.

So with so much controversy, what is there to like?

The contestants are inspired to live better lives by taking care of their bodies.  This healthy attitude is infectious.  I know that after watching an episode I work harder during my workouts and I make better food choices.  (Although, for some reason it seems like I always *need* dessert on Tuesdays.  Today is no different, as I am currently snacking on cookies.)

I love seeing how the people change week to week--and not just how much they lose.  It is really wonderful to hear that someone who was on various medications for high blood pressure, etc, now doesn't need to take a prescription.  And this happens every season!  I'm not anti-medicine, but I really think that in general Americans pop too many pills, especially for things that are in their control!

It also is inspiring to watch someone barely able to walk a mile in week one run a marathon a couple of months later.  It is a good reminder that everyone starts somewhere, and sometimes all you have to do is start.  When I watch someone that is twice, or three times, or even more, my weight doing push-ups I am reminded that I have no excuse not to drop and give 50, or maybe just 15.

The people that participate on this show are lucky to have access to trainers, a gym available to them 24/7, doctors and dietitians helping them, and very importantly being removed from all other distractions. This combination really helps them to succeed, when they have failed in the past.  Of course, it is still reality t.v., so there is also the drama of who gets voted out, how the teams work, etc.  And the producers do their job and make it as sensational as possible.

Sadly, not all of the contestants are able to keep the weight off when they return home from the Ranch.  This doesn't seem that surprising to me, considering that while there they spend 4-6 hours a day exercising and a very strict food plan.  I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time fitting in an hour of exercise a day and I'm a stay-at-home-mom!  Also, I imagine that it is easier to fall into old habits by yourself at home than at the Ranch on national television.
Well, that ends my ramblings for now--the show will be on in a few minutes.

I beg your forgiveness if this is completely incoherent, a certain little girl 
thought that she might miss something last night between 3:30 and 6:15 a.m. and 
I am in a sleep-deprived daze.

Friday, September 23, 2011

THE Dress

One of my (many) guilty pleasures is TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress".  We don't have cable, but I recently stumbled across it on Netflix.  (I should admit that my first introduction was when we had free cable--and yes we told the company that we got it, we didn't want it--I mean we didn't want to pay for it, and they should take it away.  They said it would take a few days, which in reality was almost two years.  Sigh, I miss HGTV, the Food Network, and USA.)

The amount of money that some brides are willing to drop for a dress sometimes truly astounds me.  Some of these women spend more on their dresses than our little house in South Bend cost!  (Granted, it was a very small house in a very sad and dejected market . . . but still!)  Almost all of the dresses on the show cost more than our current Ford Taurus; and I think I've only seen one dress cost less than my first car, the Hyundai Elantra.

I can't find a full length picture that is already on the computer to
show you the awesomeness of my dress, so here's a sampling.
Don't get me wrong, I totally understand wanting the perfect dress for your wedding day.  It is a once in a lifetime experience.  The feeling of walking down the aisle, feeling your best, with the man of your dreams waiting at the foot of the altar is almost impossible to describe.  It is an amazingly special day and your attire should reflect the awesomeness that is happening.  But, the dresses the cost as much as a house or car don't really seem that much better than an . . . gasp . . . off the rack dress.

Personally, I loved my dress!  I was able to find almost exactly what I wanted at David's Bridal and a very talented friend of mine was able to add gorgeous straps--with beading to match the rest of the dress!  (She really did a fantastic job!)  I could gush about it for a long time . . .


I have a quick rant before I finish.  It bothers me when people refer to the wedding as "the best day of your life".  It certainly is ONE of them, but the implication that it is all downhill from there is just wrong and downright depressing!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I Don't Understand About Baseball

Ah, the great American pastime--baseball.  I enjoy both watching and playing this sport.  I grew up with the Cincinnati Reds and am now also a Phillies fan.  (Woohoo for the fifth straight National League East title!)

Here are a couple of things that I just don't "get":

Why aren't pitchers better batters?  They should know better than any other player, other than maybe the catcher, how to read what pitch is coming.  They should be able to anticipate what pitch is coming their way by knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and knowing what they would pitch to themselves.  Once they see the pitch they should be able to react accordingly.  

Do umpires have schedules like the players?  Do they stay in one city or do they move around?  What type of rotation do they have?  What types of checks and balances do they have?  I know the players spend a lot of time away from home, but they also get paid the big bucks to sleep in a hotel bed about a third of the year (give or take some)--do the umps also make the big bucks?

What is the deal with rally caps?  Why does turning them inside out mean good luck?  Where did this bizarre tradition start?  And why?  And how?  When I first saw this phenominon I thought it was a thing the local little league did--I was rather surprised to find it is national oddity.

Why does the number of players allowed on the roster change during the year?

How does a team with no fan base get the money to build a brand new stadium? 

Where does all of the money come from that pays the player's salaries?

I am sure that there are more, but that's enough for now!

Friday, September 9, 2011

What constitutes a "girlie" beer?

I guess this stuff fits the bill.  Chick Premium Light Beer, according to its creators is "the only American beer created just for women."  The label certainly is feminine, with its pink and black color scheme.  Which, of course, does happen to be a favorite color combination of mine!  The box is a "purse" and each bottle is adorned with a LBD.  (Little Black Dress--just to be clear.)  The packaging is adorable and eye catching!  I know I would be drawn to this beer if I saw it in the store.  As it is currently it is only available in Maryland, maybe I will see it somewhere on a shelf!

Chick Beer
However . . . 

It does seem a little "patronizing" as one Reporter put it, to think that women will want it just because its cute.  That might work once, or maybe even twice, but this product will only make money if the taste can compete with the big guns.  

Also, competing in the light beer market with Chick's 97 calories will be difficult.  Michelob Ultra only has 73 calories.  Miller Genuine Draft has 64.  Budweiser Select has 99.  Budweiser Select 55 has the fewest that I've seen at a mere 55. 

I do love success stories--regular people seeing a need for something and doing something about it.  Maybe a beer for women isn't the most noble thing ever, but they are donating some of the proceeds and that's pretty cool!  Will this beer make it?  It is hard to say.  

By the way, I barely drink beer.  The most I've ever had was when I visited Ireland--I had about half a Guinness in a local pub.  But if I ever cross paths with this beer I will try it. 


UPDATE ONE: Peter claims that saying I had "about half" of the Guinness was being extremely generous.

UPDATE TWO: Here's an article that MSN just put out about the decline of certain beer sales--notably light beers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Save the Babies' Bums!

I just read this article, which claims that due to the "constipated" economy diapers are getting changed more infrequently.  The poor kids!  I hope that (if this is true) those parents have cut other things first--like their daily Starbucks or McDonalds fix, or their weekly eating out, or need  for a new shirt, or (heaven forbid!) their daily Dr. Pepper!  You get the idea; those little luxuries can add up fast, and the poor little one's bum doesn't deserve to be the one to suffer!

The cheap, I mean, frugal side of me also just about had a heart attack when they said the American family spends about fifteen hundred dollars a year on diapers!  Oh my goodness.  If we spent that money on diapers our budget would be shot to pieces.  Seriously people, even if you don't want to use coupons (and I realize they aren't for everyone) use Amazon Mom.

Also, I wonder why the kids in India get their diapers changed three more times a day than those here do?  I did a quick search, and after reading this blogger's post, it seems that they have basically the same stuff we have here in the States, so it shouldn't be a quality issue.  Is is that, on average, we are a lazier nation?  I hope that's not the answer, but I am afraid that it might be true.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What is it about Mr. Darcy?

Like any good English major, I enjoy a bit of Austen.  Of course I've read some of her work and I've enjoyed various film versions of her works.  I love the "gold-standard" edition the BBC put out in 1995.

I recently watched "Lost in Austen", a British mini-series where the modern day heroine, Amanda Price, switches places with Elizabeth Bennet and reeks havoc with Austen's famous story.  (Spoiler alert!)  All of the couples are tampered with--Mr. Collins and Jane, Bingley and Lydia, and Darcy falls for Amanda!  Amanda, who has loved Jane Austen's classic since she was fifteen, finds herself in love with Darcy.

So, it got me thinking, what is it about Mr. Darcy that makes women swoon?

He's handsome.  He's a gentleman.  He's rich. He's aloof.  He's arrogant.  He's meddlesome.  He's conceited.  

But it seems that every woman is looking for her Darcy.  I had to laugh when I found a wikiHow article entitled: "How to Find a Modern Mr. Darcy."  Darcy is not a particularly likable or sympathetic character early on in the story.  Sure, eventually I was rooting for him to win Elizabeth's heart, but that wasn't until the end!

So, again, why?

He's intelligent.  He's persistent.  He's a provider.  He's honest.  He's loyal.  He has morals.  He cares for his family and friends quite strongly.  He goes to great lengths to "protect" those he cares about.  He eventually is willing to change and learn a little humility.  He also seems to have the capacity to love passionately.

For whatever the reason, Darcy is forever anchored in history as one of the greatest greatest romantic heroes in all literature.

Here's an odd note, I found this statement is near the bottom of the Wiki page on Darcy: "Darcy's status as a romantic hero transcends literature. In 2010 a protein sex pheromone in male mouse urine, that is sexually attractive to female mice, was named Darcin in honour of the character."  Bizarre.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Little Girl

Catherine has certainly entered the impish toddler stage!  She gets into trouble because she is so curious about the world around her.  Obviously, that curiosity is something that I want to encourage and I love that she is so interested and engaging in the world around her.

But . . .

She gets into everything.  Even when I could have sworn it was out of reach!

"Look Mommy!  I found the tortilla chips, and I crunched them up, and just in case I missed any I am sitting on the bag!"

She can now climb.  On everything.  For a little while the only thing that she could get up on was the coffee table.  So we did the obvious thing, we turned it upside-down.  She really enjoys playing in/on it.  Now she can get up on the chairs, the couch, bins, the air conditioner, you name it.  We won't be opening any windows in our apartment this autumn!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Want to . . .

. . . jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

. . . backpack through Europe.

. . . go to Mass at St. Peter's.

. . . go to Hawaii.

. . . publish a book.

. . . swim competitively (again).

. . . learn how to repel down a cliff.

. . . scuba dive.

. . . play the guitar.

. . . renovate a house.

. . . and so much more!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where,oh, where is my ______?

Catherine has been practicing a new skill. She likes to put her toys and other items into other objects. I guess that it a good way to learn about volume, shapes, sizes, etc.

It certainly keeps me guessing . . .

She places her Puffs in the crockpot.

She puts Noah and his animals into various containers, cups, jars, drawers, boxes, couch cracks, etc.

Bells are found in shoes and clothes bins.

My sock bin currently has more (clean) diapers than socks in it.

The peanut butter jar is in the Dr. Pepper box.

She often will carry around her bottle and then Peter and I have to scramble to find it for bedtime. A week or two ago a bottle was missing for two days before Peter found it--in his laptop bag.

When sitting on the couch she will even try to put toys, bottles, and food up your shorts if you aren't wary.

Currently we are missing two items: a bottle and the living room t.v. remote. The problem with the bottle is that it was half full. Of milk. And its been missing for over 48 hours. The loss of the remote is problematic because that is how I change the t.v.'s input/output functions (not sure if that's the right terminology) to watch things from the DVD and VCR players, the computer, the Wii, etc. Also, the physical buttons on the t.v. are showing their age and don't always seem to be one hundred percent reliable; but the remote always does work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh . . . Canada?

I was brought up to bleed red, white, and blue--and don't get me wrong, I love my country very much. (Of course, it seems to be building an insurmountable plethora of problems . . . ) But, wow. Based on a Netflix recommendation I have been watching Heartland lately, and my goodness the land is gorgeous!

The show is set in Alberta; with a good portion of the filming takes place outside of Calgary and High River, Alberta. I had never really thought too much about the country to our North, but just look at this beautiful picture from Moraine Lake:

File:Moraine Lake 17092005.jpg

Isn't that just breath-taking? Don't you just want to climb those mountains? Have a picnic at the edge of the forest? Put your toes in the water?

There is no question that I would happily live there! However, I don't think that I would ever be a Canadian, I'd always be an American living in Canada.

Pretty Unscathed by Irene

It was quite a storm. Wind. Rain. Thunder. Lightning. More Rain. More Wind.

Millions were, and many continue to be, without power. We were very lucky, our power was only out for about ten hours--and most of those were overnight. Everything in our fridge stayed cool. (So glad that the latest fix seems to be holding!) I had a fairly sleepless night listing to the wind howling and whipping around the apartment. Happily Catherine didn't seem to mind it too much and slept pretty well; which for her means only waking up about a half-dozen times through the night.

There are many trees down, lots of power outages, a good bit of flooding, and quite a lot of small debris still out there today. In our area it wasn't too bad--it could have been much worse. The east coast wasn't completely unscathed though; people lost their lives, some lost homes, some lost their livelihood.

My prayers go out to those in need.

I'd also like to say thank you to all those participating in the clean up--especially PEPCO for getting our power restored so quickly!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Items Needed for Hurricane Preparedness (IMO)

(Please don't let this come off flippantly, I sincerely hope that EVERYONE is safe and that no-one has any damage to any of their property.)

As I am sure that EVERYONE knows by now, the East Coast is about to get/is getting slammed by Hurricane Irene. The media is causing their usual panic, although I suppose there is some cause this time. It seems like every news station, every radio station, every internet news site, etc is giving lists of some sort. They all mention the boring . . . ahem, important . . . items: non-perishable food, water, flashlights, charged cell phones, and the like.

But what about the good stuff?

I mean, if the power is going to be out for a couple of days and your domicile isn't blown away, how are you going to spend your time? My two recommendations are books and games! I have a couple of books from the library that I haven't read yet and Peter and I will delve into our cabinet of board games. Catherine will continue to reek havoc on everything that she can reach and probably (hopefully) won't notice anything amiss.

So, everyone out there, while you are gathering the "important" stuff don't forget something to keep you entertained!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We Are So Lucky

I just had the first truly cold glass of water that I've had in days and it was wonderful. It was crisp. It was refreshing. It was thirst-quenching. It was perfect.

Our refrigerator has been on the fritz (again) and at best it has been keeping things cool and at worse, not warm. The Head Maintenance Man came by today with one of his helpers and they replaced a couple of broken parts. He thinks that this should solve the problem permanently, not just temporarily like the previous times. I'm cautiously optimistic.

I can (hopefully) have cold foods kept cold easily.

I can make hot foods in minutes, or seconds with the microwave.

I have light at the flip of the switch.

I have shelter that can be climate controlled to my whims.

I can speak to people hundreds of miles away.

Life isn't too bad, is it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Roll!

Wow, we just had an earthquake.

It looks like it was only a 5.8 (or 5.9--its still being determined). That's just a mere fraction of the horrible quake in Japan in March, which was somewhere around a 9, or the one that devastated Haiti last year. I'm also sure that people from places like California would continue on as if nothing happened.

But it scared me.

I was in the living room with Catherine. She was eating puffs and I was on the phone (trying see when maintenance would come fix our fridge!) when it sounded like a semi was heading straight though the door and the apartment was moving. At first I thought that the building was sliding down the hill, then I was terrified of a terrorist attack, then--about three seconds later--I realized it was just an earthquake. I grabbed my daughter and hugged the doorjamb as tightly as I could. Everything was shaking. Some items fell off shelves. Pots and pans were clanging together. Car alarms were blaring . It only lasted about 30 seconds and then everything was still again. I grabbed my keys and cell phone and went outside. I was afraid that the building might have suffered structural damage.

After a few minutes and talking to fellow residents I went back inside. I didn't see any new cracks and everything seems to be working just fine. (Other than the fridge--but that wasn't working well before...)

I didn't like having the building shake around me and my little girl. To be honest, it rather terrified me. Now that it all over and everything seems to be alright it is a little exciting.

Just a little.

But now I have a question or two... Is it safer to be inside or outside? Why? Once it's over what should one do? Why can't they predict these things?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little People

Troll dolls. Pogs. Pound puppies. My First Sony. Some of the "coolest" toys from my childhood that my daughter probably won't understand. Well, maybe the puppies. Then there are the toys that I can't wait to share with her: my Little People doll house, my Little Tykes kitchen, and maybe even my American Girl doll Samantha (we'll see about that one though!).

I wonder what she will think of these things . . .

Little People have changed a bit since I was a kid. I had this house:
Vintage 1980 Fisher Price PLAY FAMILY HOUSE with 5 Little People and Accessories

The furniture combination that I had was a little bit different, but very close. I loved the working doorbell, the garage door that went up and down, and the detail inside and out. I remember playing with it for hours! I also had the Little People Airport, Airplane, and Playground. They were awesome! The Little Family went on many adventures.

My daughter recently received the Little People Noah's Ark for her birthday and this past Christmas she received the Little People Nativity Set. These have a slightly different look than the Little People of my childhood. Already at 13 months she spends a lot of time with these toys, I can only imagine that as she gets older she will continue to enjoy her Little People as much as I enjoyed mine--and maybe she will be able to enjoy mine as well.

(So, who out there thought the title was going to be referring to short people?
Also, I need to figure out how to make the pictures a little more uniform in size.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Circle of My Life

A new year is about to start.

Well, for me at least.

I realized awhile ago that I use the school year to determine my "year". I suppose this makes sense, because the school year has dictated what I can and cannot do for the majority of my life. First, while I was being homeschooled. Then while I was at college. Then my husband was in grad school. And now, in just a few weeks, my husband will be teaching classes while finishing up his PhD.

I actually like this way of measuring the year. This cyclical view can be reassuring. The end of August and beginning of September is a natural starting point for new beginnings. May has both the great anticipation of a summer vacation and the satisfaction of completion. Summer is a time for catching up, preparing for the next year, and maybe even having a more relaxed schedule. (Of course the summer is still busy, but it is a different kind of busy.)

I embrace this difference in my husband's chosen profession from the "normal" Monday through Friday, 9-5, fifty weeks a year, two week vacation careers. I believe that it will give our life structure with a natural ebb and flow of work and fun. Somehow this feels more natural to me than the above "norm". It seems to me that man is supposed to have "circles" in his life. The world we live in is full of cycles: the days of the week, months, the seasons, the sun and moon, life and death. The list goes on . . .

(I can't talk about the Circle of Life without a Lion King reference, can I?)

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Little Shameless Self-Promotion

As you may have noticed by now, I like to look for assortment of ways to help our financial bottom line. Two very simple things that I do are Swagbucks and Ebates.

Swagbucks, as described by their website, "[I]s an online portal dedicated to helping you earn digital dollars called "Swag Bucks", which can be redeemed for exclusive merchandise." My favorite way of redeeming these "bucks" is for Amazon gift cards. So far I've collected over a hundred dollars worth of Amazon money--very helpful at Christmas time! Pretty much all I do is use the search bar, which is super simple to download. I generally win 10-50 "bucks" a day with my normal search routine, more on days that I am online a lot. I find the results similar or slightly lacking compared to a Google search. There is a slight "pyramid scheme" aspect to it as well--the more people that sign up under you the more "bucks" you can earn. That being said, here is my referral link. Other ways of winning include surveys, games, polls, etc.

Ebates is a little different. This is for when you are making an online purchase. In their words, "Shop though Ebates, and earn up to 25% cash back at your favorite stores." I have yet to see this magical 25%, but I have been able to get 8% back a couple of times--which is really nice when you were going to make the purchase anyway! They have a long list of stores that participate, all you have to do is go to Ebates and then click on the store that you want to shop at. This will open a tracking ticket for you and then you just shop as normal. They send out checks a couple of times a year. My only complaint is that Amazon is not a part of Ebates. (Ebay is though!) It also rewards for referrals, so here is my link.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Know You're Old When . . .

. . . You drool over a refrigerator.

Right now we have a very boring, slightly dated, incredibly basic apartment model. While I can't see over the top, I am a little taller than it--which also illustrates the fact that it isn't very large. It doesn't cool very evenly, on the top shelf things can get icy and the bottom shelf often doesn't keep a can of pop cold enough. (In my humble opinion, but I do like my pop extremely chilled.)

A fridge was the first major purchase Peter and I made after we got married. At the time we owned a small house in Indiana. It sounds very silly, but I loved that fridge! I liked the versitility of the side by side. I loved having ice and water in the door. I also loved how bright and fresh it was. Here's the best picture that I could find:

I do miss that fridge AND the kitchen. Peter put a lot of work into the kitchen and it really did pay off! (I should find the "before" pictures someday, the best way to describe it would be that whoever painted it was high.)

So, what type of fridge am I drooling over today?

This model! I love the snazzy stainless steel. I have heard that it can be a pain to keep clean--but it just looks so cool! I really am a fan of the French-door style. I love the drawer freezer. The upper drawer can be used for whatever you need it for: cool, cold, or frozen. The refrigerator section has so many storage options:

Sadly, with a price tag of almost three grand, I doubt that it will be in our price range anytime soon--if ever! But, hey, a girl can dream!

(And when the time comes, I will check all of the clearance sections, scratch and dent models, floor models, etc of every home improvement store in the area. In addition I will scour Craigslist and try to use all methods available to me to maybe, just maybe, score a deal!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Frugal Stuff and Freebies

As my earlier post about coupons might indicate, we tend to/try to live a frugal life style. Especially now that I am a stay at home mom we simply don't have a whole lot of income while my husband finishes up his PhD. So for now we shop at Aldi, enjoy the fruits of my coupon hobby, watch Hulu and Netflix instead of going to movies, limit the number of times we eat out, watch clearance sections at local stores, etc. I also follow a lot of frugal blogs; and I often fill out the surveys, requests for free samples, and enter the giveaways that these blogs point me to. Sometimes it surprises me what comes to my door. There is the constant stream of free magazines, various trial size boxes of cereal, three packs of baby diapers, travel packets of shampoo and body wash, coupons of all kinds, etc. However, today's freebie takes the cake.

A free Pandora bracelet. Yep. FREE jewelry knocked at my door this morning! It was complete chaos this morning--Catherine had just discovered how to take shelves out of the bookcase that holds her clothes and diapers and had dumped the contents of my coupon binder--when the FedEx man hammered on the door. He handed me this:
Of course it was in a plain padded white envelope, he didn't just hand over a bracelet. It was a thank you for filling out a survey about Pandora Jewelry. I was incredibly honest while taking the survey: I've never shopped there in my life, don't plan on shopping there, find much of their stuff too over-the-top for my tastes, and I think that it is absurdly overpriced. (On the last note, guess what they value this bracelet at? $95! Can you believe that?!?! Of course, you can find similar styles on ebay for about $10.) I have to admit, I do rather like this bracelet. The overall style is simple and the bead is pretty.

It just goes to show you that you never know what will show up on your doorstep!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One of My Hobbies

I love couponing!

I have been having fun with it for a couple of years now. It isn't something that controls my like (think TLC's Extreme Couponing) but is a definite presence. There will be a month or two that I won't really find any deals, or really even look for them, but then I will have a month or two of fantastic deals!

I am still trying to come up with the "perfect" system for me. I have a large binder and a small organizer that fits in my purse. The binder is large enough to fit all the store ads and uncut coupons in the front pouch and then I put the cut coupons in baseball card sleeves in the main section. The tough aspect of this system is I have to cut the coupons pretty quickly and put them in the binder--which can be difficult with Catherine hanging onto me (and trying her best to eat the coupons). I put special coupons (free items and high value) and coupons that I know I will use in the small organizer.

I have so much to say on this topic, but I need to go...I have to run to the store and use coupons for two free gallons of milk that expire today!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eat less, move more.

Before I begin, I am in no way a health nut. One of my favorite meals is pizza, cheese puffs, a Dr. Pepper, and some ice cream for dessert.

Lately I have been saddened by the lack of care that people give to their bodies. So many people are obese today, it truly seems to be an epidemic. In my own family--including myself, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc, (all of whom I care dearly about)--many of us could stand to lose a few pounds, some of us more than a few. One of my elder relatives, who I highly respect, and I had this conversation at a party recently:

Me: "How are you doing?"
Him: "Not too bad. I'm getting old and have old people's problems."
Me: "I'm sorry. Anything I can do for you?"
Him: "Nope. Dr. C asked me a question many years ago and I should have listened to him."
Me: (Quizzical look).
Him: "He said,'What would you say if I asked you to carry around an extra 35 pounds for the rest of your life?' I told him he was crazy, of course I wouldn't do that. His response, 'Well, then lose it.' I wish I would have listened."

Thirty-five pounds! Sure, in some ways that is a lot of weight, my kid doesn't even come close to that, but in other ways it is such a small amount that could have had a positive impact on his life all these years later. He didn't need to lose 50, 75, 100, or even 200 pounds, just losing 35 pounds would have made the doctor happy. It is such a well documented fact that having a healthy weight makes your life better. It also seems that every little bit counts! Even if you are 500 pounds it is better to lose 15 pounds than to stay where you are.

I recently began to get more serious about health (again). I am trying to run five days a week, fit in various exercise videos, and whatever else Catherine will allow me to do! I am also trying to eat less junk food and more raw foods. I have a simple mantra for now: Eat less, move more.

(For full disclosure, my morning "run" consists of running, jogging, walking, and just barely dragging myself along.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Couple of Brief Thoughts on the Art Discussion (or Arguing)

(Please forgive any lapses in clarity, or crazy typos--my almost-one-year-old is helping me today.)

Man is a social creature. Part of being social is conversation and discussion of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Often times these discussions can turn into arguments, because there are multiple thoughts, ideas, and opinions on the same subject matter. It can be quite easy to get caught up in one of these conversations and hurt someone's feelings, or to get one's own feelings bruised.

Being married to a Philosopher means that I have lots of experience with discussions! I have, on occasion, found myself trapped into an absurd position because of a long line of the following:

Philosopher: "If you say That, then you really are saying This, right?"
Me: "Well, I suppose so. That does logically follow."
Philosopher: "And This means that you hold Absurd Position."
Me: "Well, that's what it seems like. (Pause as the absurdity of the position fully sinks in.) But that's not what I mean!"

I have also seen what another blogger terms a "philosopher-attack". This is where the philosopher in question gets so engrossed in the discussion that it can sound angry, or feel offensive, but in all actuality the philosopher is simply trying to get as much information as possible and see how the information holds together.

With my experience I believe that I have some ideas that others might find helpful:

Words like "Never", "Always", "Every", etc, are incredibly overused today, and generally should be avoided in most discussions. There are so many exceptions! Also, people like to say things like,

"Blank is NEVER right."
"Insert your choice of objection."
"Oh, well, of course I don't mean in THAT circumstance--that would be ridiculous!"

Well, then you don't really mean NEVER, do you? Just because something seems like obvious exclusion to you doesn't mean that it will obvious to someone else.

Discussion has healthy back and forth, it should be a give and take exchange. Don't just talk past one another--LISTEN and give thoughtful consideration to what is being said. Be careful not to shoot questions as if they were on trial. No one likes to feel that they are in the middle of an inquisition.

Be considerate of other people's feelings. Don't let a discussion turn into a personal attack. Also, don't take criticism of an idea as a personal attack. I find this "rule" to be especially difficult to follow in online discussion--such as on Facebook. In that format so many of the little things get lost: general body language, voice inflection, a smile.

This is the most important point that I would like to make today.

Are you ready for it?


When discussing a difference in opinion the objective is NOT to "win" the argument. The objective is to discover the truth. There shouldn't be "winners" or "losers". Both/all parties engaged in a discussion should feel that they gained some new insight into the subject matter.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fiction and Life

A couple of days ago I watched a movie that had me absolutely bawling. Life as We Know It is not a particularly riveting drama, it is a fairly predictable chick-flick. So why did it reduce me to tears?

Because the premise is that the parents of a young girl about my daughter's age are tragically killed leaving her an orphan. That just touched a little too close to home.

And then...

This morning I finished murder mystery book (yes, another book!) where the psycho killer randomly targets mothers and their young children--again roughly Catherine's age.

Sure, both of these are works of fiction and the chances of those things happening to me and my family are incredibly slim, but they still made me pause and reflect on the important things in life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Sleep Like a Baby"

A year ago that phrase gave me warm fuzzy feelings, with visions of a sweet cherub swaddled cozily in a bassinet with her eyes closed and the only sound was quiet breathing.

Then my daughter was born.

She's amazing, happy, and healthy and I love her to pieces! However, the kid doesn't sleep. The first few months of her life my husband and I were rarely asleep at the same time. There were days when she would barely sleep for six hours--all cat naps, snoozes, long naps, eye closing minutes added together in a 24 hour period. She certainly never slept more than two hours at a time and a period longer than 45 minutes was rare. Eventually we found that she was most comfortable in her bouncy seat and we milked that for all it was worth! Now that she's a year old, and has very much outgrown the bouncy seat, she sleeps with us. She still is a poor sleeper. She will wake up anywhere from 4 to 14 times a night and generally takes one nap a day.

I just keep reminding myself that someday she will be a teenager and I won't be able to drag her out of bed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back...

I am sure that all mothers of an-almost-one-year-old have these days...

You get the Tupperware washed and put away only to turn around to see what used to be a large stack of magazines on the floor.

You get the laundry all washed an folded only to turn around and see a container of Puffs dumped on the floor.

You get the bills paid and organized only to turn around and see the contents of your coupon binder strewn across the floor.

You manage to blockade one bookcase only to turn around and see the DVD cabinet is missing a shelf and most of the movies are on the floor.

And it seriously only took her seconds! She is an adorable little rascal and I love her dearly.

The moral of the story is when visiting my humble abode watch your step.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventures From the Comforts of My Couch

This past weekend I finished not one, not two, but three novels.

It has been ages since I have been able to do that! Granted, they were easy reads--from the Young Adult section of the library--but I was able to read for fun!

I've always loved reading. At a very young age I found out that the library had a limit on how many books I could check out at a time. My favorites then were Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, Happy Hollisters, Bobbsey Twins, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott among so many others! The mystery lover in me turned to Agatha Christie in my teens--my personal collection of books is missing very few titles of hers. Sadly, in my late teens and college years I just did not have the time to read as profusely (see previous post about work). I did my best to keep up with the vast amount of reading required for classes--in true English major fashion, I almost always succeeded in my Literature classes. (How I loved those classes!) Shortly after getting married life gave us some rather unexpected twists and turns, which made our local library our number one stop for entertainment. I was hooked into reading for pleasure all over again! I devoured the Twilight Saga, discovered James Patterson, enjoyed biographies, and so much more! More recently, I was so nauseated for most of my pregnancy that I didn't want to do anything after getting home other than watch tv. Post-pregnancy I had a Baby that didn't sleep and then I was also working. So reading for pleasure was a lost pastime. Now that I am not earning a paycheck and Catherine can entertain herself for short periods of time I can read again!

This week's fascinations are: the Maximum Ride series and anything by Rick Riordan--just finished the Percy Jackson series and absolutely loved it. I have updated my library card and am makings lists for a visit this afternoon!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm a Stay At Home Mom...

...So what now?

I've earned some form of a paycheck pretty much non-stop since I was sixteen. During my college years I participated in the work-study program during the school year and would often work more than 60 hours a week during the summer. Post graduation I worked two jobs; a normal M-F office job and waiting tables four or five nights a week. After getting married I only worked one at one job at a time, with the exception of a couple of months. After my maternity leave I did return to work, but only part-time. "Work"--meaning I leave the house and earn a paycheck-- has been a big part of my life up to now.

I have begun a journey of a different type of "work". I will no longer be earning a paycheck but I hope to make a significant contribution to my household. Obviously, I have been a mother since my daughter was born, and I did my best to be both a good mother and a fiscal provider.

I am hoping that this shift in my role provides new possibilities and opportunities for me and for my family. Some of my goals are practical: getting and keeping the house clean and orderly. Other goals are personal: attending week day Masses. Financial goals are also important: find ways to save money while improving our quality of life. Some goals are just fun: read for pleasure.

Duty calls...

It's time for dinner.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A New Chapter in My Life

This week is the first week that I am a Full-Time-Stay-at-Home-Mom. After Catherine was born, almost a year ago, I was able to take a three month maternity leave and then returned on a part-time basis. I enjoyed my job; but I am so excited to begin this new journey.

As of now this blog does not have a clear purpose; it is not a Frugal Blog, a Weight Loss Blog, a Literature Blog, or a Movie Blog. It is my blog and as such will be a reflection of me, with my thoughts, my opinions, my ramblings, my nonsense, etc.