Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dude, Get On That Already

After my last bit of guilty ranting (a completely healthy process from time to time, if I do say so myself), I suppose it's time for the kick in the arse/fun challenge/"well aren't I a glutton for punishment" moment we all need once in awhile. Or monthly. Or daily. Whatever.

I actually got the idea (as well as the title of the blog post, don't want to go stealing anyone's intellectual property without giving props) from, where else, my favorite bloggers at Young House Love. I've always thought that Sherry had it completely together, cleaned everything from top to bottom weekly, and was borderline OCD (in that "good way"). But, of course, that's Blogland. The land where everything gets set up perfectly before taking pictures (mostly) and skeletons in closets can stay safely hidden. Seriously, with this "self-imposed challenge" (and past tours of "what the house really looks like" any given day), I love her for showing her warts. Ew, not literally.

And it got me thinkin'. While we don't have a room entirely devoted to clutter, we have a couple that are looking pretty shoddy. They're coming along *already*, but they're not quite there. And, with the pregnancy laziness abounding, it's easy to let projects fall to the wayside.

But, this "challenge" might just be something that I can handle. As it is, I've accomplished my first one - with the help of the hubs and his uber-helpful brother. I suppose they can take the credit for the first "Dude, Get On That Already" moment.

Picture a crib here, and a much cleaner floor. Yep, the nursery's #1 on our list, and I've got lots more to do. BUT, I figure that it'll be tons more manageable for Lil' Miss Preggers here if I look at it weekly. If I can get one big thing (or, heck, even medium-sized) accomplished each week, huzzah. If I can get more than one done - BONUS! If I'm not motivated enough to do something in the nursery, I'll head to the office, or bathroom, or tiny little space that needs organizing. Either way, it's doable. Plus, I'll be checking in with my progress. Can anyone say "accountability"? I knew you could!

Um, yeah. The other side of the room. D'oh!! We could play a fun game of "I Spy".

Yes, I even gave it the "sexy treatment" (ie blurred the photo's edges) to emphasize how huge it is to have this dresser in our room. Times, they are a-changin'!
(Hey, I could've taken an artistic, B&W pic.)

On a side note, the flooring in our house...well, here's the deal. I know there's hardwood upstairs, simply because we tore up two rooms (why we didn't do all three upstairs, I have no idea) of cheap carpeting upon moving in. There's some strange wood filler-type residue living between lots of the cracks, and which had to be cleaned from the surface, so this floor looks tons better than it did on Day One. However, it still drives me nuts. There are gouges and scrapes from years of neglect, and I'm not sure we'll ever afford the price of refinishing. It's enough to really tick me off, until it reminds me of when I see the animal neglect and abuse commercials on TV and think, "Someone really didn't love this house the way they should have, and it's saddening." Then, of course, my mind wanders to all the emotionally and physically scarred animals and I get a-cryin'. It's a vicious cycle, people. And it all starts with crappy wood floors.

On yet ANOTHER side note: UPDATE! Getting on the "Dude, Get On That Already" bandwagon means that I FINALLY updated our New Year's collage post to actual show, what else? PICTURES of the friggin' COLLAGES we made!!! What an idea. Sorry for the wait! Just goes to show you that it doesn't mean that I don't care; I just get distracted easily. Head on over there and check 'em out. (BTW, process-wise, Dave and I both selected a ton of pictures 'n stuff from magazines and I "collaged" them together. It was so much fun and so very inspirational, I made two and still find inspiration in them to this day. So much for being a New Year's thing.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Guilty Gertrude

Okay, that's a strange title - I'll admit it publicly, and right off the bat. But, my grandmother used to use such old-fashioned names to talk to my sister and I (Gertrude, Mildred, etc) and it reminded me of what my sister called me when I told her I was pregnant - "Fertile Myrtle". I love my family, can't you tell?

I just thought I'd share yet another self-indulgent post (I guess all blog posts kind of are self-indulgent, in a way, aren't they? Unless I'm posting one of those "what types of posts do you want to see more?" posts, which always end in "whatever you want" answers, anyway) about, what else, my feeeeeeliiiiings. I'm clearly also in a self-deprecating mood. What else is new?

ANYhoo, the real point is to let out some of the stuff that I am either a) inclined to feel guilty about, in general and/or b) feeling guilty about currently. I'm a recovering Catholic, what can I say?

- My computer usage is mad crazy. It's a tiny goal of mine (that I just came up with, ummmmmm, yesterday) to put the damn laptop away before my husband gets home. This way, I can blog all I like and stalk all the sites I enjoy, but still have a dinner with my man and listen to any day-to-day venting that he (or, of course, I) may need to spout while doing it. Mind you, it's generally in front of the TV. *cue wop-wop noise and even further guilt*
- I'm not motivated. Blame the pregnancy exhaustion. Blame my lazy-ass self. Whatever. If it's something that NEEDS to be done (ie has a deadline, teachers are showing up with students for library, bills need to be paid), I do it. How very 1990s Nike of me - I just DO it. But, when there's not a deadline (even that how-many-more-months-til-July/why-is-my-stomach-suddenly-looking-terribly-bloated deadline is so far off that I think "Eh. We've got tiiiiiime. Whaddaya worried about?"), I SUCK. The to-do list is living in my head. I'm fully aware of WHAT needs to be done. I'm just not doing it. Plus, with a husband that's all-too-understanding yet on the COMPLETE opposite side of the spectrum - can we just say he's a tad antsy to get stuff completed, and rightfully so? - I feel guiltier. If that's possible.
- I'm a meanie. A big, blue meanie. (Anyone get that reference? Anyone?) Again, this could be from the pregnancy, but, seriously, I get awfully snappy - and particularly with the ones I love the most. Er, one. My hubs. Either he doesn't notice, or he's fully able to reason to himself that my hormones must've turned me into a raging she-devil. I've GOTTA control this more. Even if it IS hormones, it's still not right. He's the person I love the most. (Not that he doesn't hear that all the time, too.) And, in all honesty, this comes out to the cats on occasion, too - that's more my temper than anything, but I've also learned to be a heck of a lot more patient thanks to all the guys in my house...so, in a way, I'm already improving. But hormones + Irish temper = gotta be more "on top of it". ;-)
- I'm not my mom. Dude, did I really just TYPE that?! Of course I'm not my mom. Or my awesome sister. Or any of the other awesome "can work and make a house a home" type of women that I'm honored to know. I don't clean nearly enough, and I don't declutter - as a matter of fact, I do the opposite. I'm the clutterer of the household. This is NOT a trait that I want "baby" to mimic. Get on that one, Mommy.
- I want to do it all, but I can't. Or, can I? I have a solid concept of the person I'd like to be. I have examples of projects and activities that I'd like to do, and what, in life, is most important for me to focus on. But there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day, OR see my #2 bullet point above. I guess I've just gotta discover my focus.

I'm sure there are lots naughtier things that I'm feeling guilty about that would be better spending time in the confessional - white lies, jealousy, overusing the word "uber" (or using "mad" in the "wrong way") - but, for now, I'll leave you with these. Hopefully my chest lightens up a bit, but I think that's another side effect of pregnancy. *ahem*

Have a great weekend, folks!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Fabulous Winston

If you're not a cat person (and I realize that not everybody is), don't bother reading this post. It's a self-indulgent love-fest, entirely about one special kitty. Thanks for stopping by, though, and be sure to come back soon!

We love our cats unconditionally. If not for our cats, we wouldn't even feel close to ready to emotionally raise children - seriously, they've taught us that much. They're each so special in their own ways that every week or so one of us has an emotional breakdown over the thought of ever losing any of our little guys. Seriously, you've just gotta meet them and spend time with them to "get it". Admittedly, after a short visit (which is what most folks experience at our house), they're still quite shy and VERY much on their best behavior...which is hysterical given how bold and sweet they usually are. They've truly got lots of personality.

There's a special spot in our hearts for each of them, truly. Beardslee's harrowing near-death experience when we, by luck, picked him up brings a tear to my eye. The serendipity of friends mentioning Winston as a buddy for Beardslee was simply meant to happen. Jasper's cuddliness (and complete willingness to steal Daddy's side of the bed - anything to be with Mommy) proves that he was just what I needed (I always wanted a snuggle bunny - he will share part of the pillow, or use my shoulder as a pillow...seriously, he's people). He was the perfect birthday present - the one that found ME out of the blue on my special day.

But, this post is specifically for Winston; our special guy. They're all quite special (as I mentioned). But, Wee Wee is a different type of special.

He's the type of guy who makes YOU work for HIS love. At the same time, he's incredibly insecure and can't stand being rejected when he wants to be held or cuddled. (By the way, that's almost always after shower time in the morning, while his brothers are asleep downstairs. He'd never, ever allow them to see his vulnerability firsthand. However, he does writhe on the floor in happiness when we get home at the end of the day - THAT, he'll show everyone.)

He's our baby, by age. We must tell him this and remind him how special he is. His insecurities are just that bad; you can see them in his eyes and face and body language; it's clear when he's in need of a boost. The others would simply sulk until their mood passed.

Strangely, he's also the most confident cat in the house. Mind you, he won't sit and clean his crotch for the whole world to see (like *ahem* Tweedledee and Tweedledum). But, he's got his own, tall model walk. His song is "Moves Like Jagger"; we can totally envision him model-walking and doing the head-over-his-shoulder look at the camera to it. He's sleek and not overweight in the slightest (unlike the others). After potty time (which embarrasses him to no end, you can see on his face...ugh, people can WATCH me), he "cleans" the window in the French door next to the litter pan. He's simply fabulous, helping Daddy pick out his outfits regularly, and with his long fangs, we always figured he had a cute, lispy speech impediment. Put those stereotypes together and you've got an idea of which way our Winston likes to swing. (Considering how often he likes to "show dominance" over his brothers, I've got no doubt.) And, of course, we're totally cool with it.

Somehow, for as finicky and fabulous as Winston is, he's the tough guy of the house. He's the first to sneak his way into the basement when the door's open, and could spend all day getting dirty and cobwebby, discovering nooks and crannies. When Daddy has a project to work on, especially with my stepfather, he has to be in the thick of it. Seriously, you can see him staring at the project, looking at the men, looking back and THINKING about what the issue is. He's curious, and by far our smartest boy. (That's okay, we all have our great traits - Beardslee's sensitivity and soulfulness, Jasper's cuddliness.) 

And he's the biggest bully in the house...the best fighter, the quickest, the cat most willing to fight dirty and bite someone's naughty bits. He's a climber (look! I'm the tallest thing in the ROOM!), which wouldn't be a big deal if he didn't frequently climb USING HIS CLAWS to the top of my comfy living room chair. It's enough to make you very angry. If it wasn't Winston doing it. He'll always do something quickly to redeem himself. But nothing TOO sweet. That's not his style.

What else makes him special? His voice. His looks would indicate a high-pitched meow...but, nope. He's more like a baritone, if his brothers are both tenors (or sopranos, but don't tell them that). He meows occasionally, but his "noises" make him interesting. When he jumps down and lands, or when he doesn't like something we're doing (like not letting him go into the basement), or when he really, really wants to be picked up, he kind of grunts. It's a throat noise that's not a meow but definitely a major complaint. It's hysterical.

He's also special, to me, because he's almost 100% gray. His brothers both have tiger (or some sort of patterned kitty gene) markings, but he's silvery blue with a couple of very small white patches underneath. His face is angular, unlike his rounded brothers. What's so darn special about a gray cat?

Well, it's special to me. My first cat EVER (one that I wasn't allergic to - a short-hair, just like Mr. Hardly Sheds Winston) was named Griffy, and she was a great pet to have. I don't remember much about her, though, since she died a month after my father. We always say that she died of a broken heart, curled up under his cane. I distinctly remember getting a snip of her fur before Grandpa buried her under our swing set, fur that was denser and finer than most cats - just like Winston. Mom still remarks about how he looks like Griffy...and I'm pretty sure that's why it was hard for me to say 'no' to adding him to the family.

It's clear to me that all three of our boys were brought to us by fate, and there's no fighting that. After all, I used to be a dog person.

The perfect picture to represent Winston's First Christmas. Side story: We awoke to shreds of ONE (out of a kazillion) present, already opened, wrapping paper strewn throughout the house and this little "Stripey" toy already disgustingly licked and chewed, and even torn into. Wee Wee had a Stripey that he destroyed and I resewed a dozen times that simply had to be done away with, so he must've known this guy was his special toy for the year. (And, nope. There's no catnip in it.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Little Better

I was kind of bugged by an area in our house. Actually, it had gotten to the point where I had become complacent about it, so the day that I had some inspiration to fix up the space was kind of a miracle - especially with my some-would-say lack of motivation/energy lately. Hey, pregnancy can do that to a person. :-P

Anyhoo, this spot happens to be what I'd refer to as a "landing" - is that what YOU call that spot that adjoins two staircases? I had added a cat-friendly bench that I painted and reupholstered and threw up (ew, throw up) a hand-me-down window treatment, and called it a day. While the kitty boys enjoy the spot (especially since it gives them an awesome side view of...well, a very-close neighbor house, but a bird's-eye view of the backyards), something wasn't working for me.

The very dark "before" shot.

So, it occurred to me to hang the $4 bamboo blinds we recently purchased from Christmas Tree Shop (I LOVE THAT PLACE!! Hello?! $4?!) and some not-being-used sheers to add some...eh...pizzazz? Peacefulness? Suntin-suntin? And, while I was at it, the boys' toy basket found its way under the bench.

Helping...by sitting on a very uncomfortable bamboo shade?



A nighttime view. And, yes, I'm owning the "those sheers are a tad too long" look, for now. ;-)

The boys noticed immediately and were a tad disdainful for the basket change (especially since I took away an awesomesauce hiding spot - sorry, boys, you'll get over it), we otherwise love the change. I'd like to keep an eye out for a better curtain rod, but in the meantime, I'm a happy camper. Can we say $5 fix-up?

On a side note, while I'm on the complainy train, I HATE the carpet in our house. While I'd adore being able to tear it ALL up and get all the floors refinished, I'm not sure that it will ever happen. New baby + hardwood floor dust + THE COST = craziness. *Sigh* And it saddens me, it does. BUT, since Mr. Jasper came into our lives, the carpet has gone through some very rough times - especially on the stairs. SO, I'd like to at least rip up the carpet from the bottom of the stairs upward. It'd be nice to clean them up a tad and possibly paint the front of the risers. Sound like a safety hazard? (Less friction while carrying a newborn?) Any ideas/opinions?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Diaper Debate

I've been researching diapers for months. Months 'n months 'n months. Seriously, long before I found out that we're pregnant. Strangely enough, I got away from my obsessive searching after I got the news, so it feels like I'm re-starting the search all over again. I had found so many incredible resources online that I feel like I'm sifting through big piles of...ahem, diapers.

Why all the diaper research, Meg? What question do you need to find out? Where to buy them? What brand is the cheapest?

Nope. I feel like I'm about to "put my foot in it", but I suppose part of being a parent is having your decisions questioned, and eyebrows raised. Go right ahead- this is a decision that my husband and I are making, and if it doesn't work out for us, we're willing to admit our mistakes. I figure this whole experience is one big lesson after another. Nobody's an expert...except maybe Michelle Duggar, and even she gets raised eyebrows from time to time.

Anyhoo, the big "what, are you nuts?" revelation is the fact that we'd like to try cloth diapering. There are plenty of reasons, in our minds, to take this route:

- Long-term cost. While the initial investment is just that - a major investment - lots of sources have indicated that the diapers that we're considering will pay for themselves in comparison to disposables. From diaperingdecisions.com, it's stated that over the course of 3 years, one will spend $2694.54 for 7,349 disposable, single use diapers - at a moderate estimate (nevermind if your kid has lots of extra blowouts and accidents). Depending on our budget (of course I'm researching every available option of purchase, and which diapers get the best reviews/last the longest), we'll be spending many hundreds fewer than $1000 for diapers that will grow with our baby until they're no longer needed. Also, when it comes to laundering, "Consumer Report estimates that the most inefficient washer and dryer system costs approximately $0.78 per load to launder whereas more efficient models will cost approximately $0.44 per load to launder. So wash your own, twice a week for between 44-78 cents including water, hydro and detergent or spend $16.94 to $22.05 for single use disposable diapers." Woot. Besides, if I think about it enough, I know I'll be doing tons of baby clothes (which are tiny), so we can wash them together. Kind of how we just throw our cloth napkins in with our usual white loads (which we're still going strong with, thankyouverymuch).

- Ecological impact. Lots of folks argue that disposables aren't THAT ecologically bad when compared to the energy used when cleaning cloth diapers. Even with the dinosaur washer and dryer that we run, it's greener. Further information from diaperingdecisions.com: "Consider the numbers: 36 cloth diapers, that are used over and over; most likely for more than one child, or on average 7,349 single use diapers per child. One time use throw away diapers are the single largest non recyclable component of household garbage, creating 1 ton of garbage per year per child." The process of rinsing and flushing out diapers, then washing once or twice a week utilize sewage that will be treated and released back into the environment properly. Disposables...eh, well, I think they're the devil as far as their biodegradability.

- Comfort. After reading lots of personal blogs (none of which were perked by any companies for their reviews), a common thread is the fact that a lot of children don't have diaper rash when parents use cloth diapers. Sure, every butt's different (and how!), but between the good rash-free odds and the fact that no plastic-y, paper-y feelings will be on baby's bum, I'm a happy mommy. I even heard that in 1970 (back when cloth was pretty much king) less than 10% of kids experienced diaper rash; today, it's closer to 80-90%.

- Longevity. We're hoping to have a brood (ie more than one baby). Do you think those future babies will be able to wear their big brother or sister's disposable diapers? Um, ew. Nope. But, if I learn how to properly care for these (plus the fact that I'm looking into the snap options rather than velcro, which tends to get weak over time), we may only have to purchase the occasional newbie. If that. :-)

- "If it was good enough for my mother..." My mom was pretty basic and old school - she raised 4 kids, all on cloth diapers. (Have I mentioned I love her for her simplicity in raising us??) She also worked as a hairdresser (using our front porch, of all places), so it's not like she had all day to do laundry. PLUS, those were the days of safety pins and the old flat diapers as the only option, until disposable diapers came along - far too expensive for our family. While technology has changed (you can get 4-in-1's, organics, pockets...holy crap, everything), I still love the idea behind 'em.

Arguments against? Well, the financials aren't quite a drop in the bucket initially (more like the whole bucket), and time is a hard thing to control these days. Add that to the fact that we'd like to *try* to breast feed, and there's a good chance I may never leave the house again. Hee hee, just kidding. We'll make it work.

I'm still deciding between some brands and would prefer to just buy one, especially if I see iffy reviews here and there, so I'm sure I'll let you know a) what we end up deciding and b) in the long-term, how things go. Lots of cloth diapering mamas on the interwebs share their disaster stories as well as their success stories, and I'm all about honesty.

In the interest of full disclosure, we're talking about using some more eco-friendly newborn disposable diapers for the first week or two (especially if breast feeding works out), and will probably use the occasional disposable when traveling. Depending on our babysitting situation, we'd like to be able to continue with the cloth diapering if possible. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Web of Confusion

As you might have read yesterday, I'm hoping to get a tighter grasp on my finances this year. (It's not a resolution; they're just some goals I'd like to work on this year - and in years to come!) I alluded to the fact that I'll be researching some techniques that may help me, but also to some factors that have me thinking about cutting out some other "techniques".

That may sound vague, so I'll let you into my brain. I read an article discussing, of all things, the censorship issue that's been plastered all over the news and web and how the 24-hours without Wikipedia affected folks. From there, it poses the question of having ZERO internet.

A huge internet fail would be a huge shock in many parts of, well, all of our lives. Lots of our jobs rely on the interwebs, but even the way in which some of us live our daily lives would be blown out of the water. I know mine would...although, there's an antiquated part of me that hopes, one day, to be able to use the internet for brief positives, but simultaneously be able to disconnect without "jonesing" for it. And, dude, I'm not even a smart phone user.

I thought further about how a major loss of internet would impact my finances, and realized that - holy crap - it really would. While I utilize a local credit union that has very basic, infrequently updated online banking services, I also use them to pay certain bills automatically. Most of these auto payments are made online. I only pay two monthly bills traditionally - with real math, a checkbook, and a stamp.

Many of us use the convenience of payment services (and direct deposit!) to make our lives easier. It's so easy that I have very little connection between my money and where it goes - seriously, what bills do I pay, anyway? It's just that easy to get disconnected from your money. So, when it's nearly gone, you have no idea - or go into shock when you check your account only to realize the amount isn't what you thought it would or should be. It's a tough lesson, and a pretty depressing way to live.

Even after doing my best to keep an eye on spending this month so far, I realized that I still wasn't aware of what my income was doing. It's a lot like a relationship - if you don't pay attention to it, you can't expect it to be all that it can be (fulfilling for both involved, supportive, etc), and before too long you're in trouble. So, I realized I need to develop a relationship with my finances. I've gotta spend more time with it, check in to see how it's doing, and focus on it - even if it's inconvenient.

So, rather than changing absolutely everything immediately, I'm going to start (one at a time) getting back to paying bills by check. While I hate the idea of receiving bills in the mail, as long as I'm getting a reminder of a due date, I think that I'll be much more aware of my finances again. Kind of old-fashioned, but at least I won't be so reliant upon the interwebs - and hopefully I'll be more self-reliant, instead. And I'd be if lots of us made changes like these, the postal service wouldn't be in its current mess.

What method do you use? Auto-pay (but are on top of your stuff, unlike me)? The old-fashioned way? Do tell!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Financial Aid

I've been focusing a lot more on my finances in 2012. Between not being as "on top of" them as I'd like to be and wanting to have more of a cushion (thanks to the addition of a new baby in the upcoming year), it just makes sense. And, somehow, with the new year came a new motivation to do way better than I have been in the past.

So far, it's been the basics for me - writing down what I've been spending. I tried analyzing my expenses at the end of December, but admittedly this is an easy way to get an inaccurate account of the truth. Hello, Christmas!

I'm actually excited to analyze where my ka-ching is going. I'd like to put it into a pie chart (since I am, apparently, a visual learner) and make decisions about what spending choices of which I approve and disapprove. I'm sure some will make me cringe (and delve into a deep self-loathing), but some will be an interesting challenge/eye-opener. It's time to be real and honest with myself, and I'm hoping to drag Dave into the conversation, too. I already know what his challenges are, and what he does particularly well keeping on top of, but I don't think he's ever seen ME deal with financial challenges; I've always helped him through his. So, I think it'll be good for him to hear that his wife's not perfect. Not financially, anyway. *wink*

Since it's silly to go forth simply to "see what's what", I think it's a good idea to set some measurable goals. These may change or shift or turn into a completely different goals - hey, they're goals, they're allowed to do that.

So, the simple few goals I've got in mind?

1) Setting a budget. I'd like to have an "individual budget" as well as a "family budget" (ie D+M+baby). Nope, I'm not working off of a specific budget, currently. I'm sure that makes me a shame to my mother and sister - two financial wizards, in my humble opinion. So, I'm gettin' with it.

2) Building a nest egg. While I have some savings, it's certainly not the suggested amount that I'm always reading about. I contribute to my 403(b) (the educator's version of a 401(k)), but I'd also like to be able to maintain a separate account, as well as start some college savings for the little one.

3) Trim the fat. Now it sounds like I'm dieting. Nope, I'm just hoping that with honest analysis comes some solid realizations about my spending. Pretty simple...but easier said than done.

4) Determine the best habits, then make commitments to maintain them. Find out what I'm doing wrong, determine what to do to fix them...then make them part of our lifestyle. And keep it up from there, of course.

So, there are some financial goings-on in my head. I've got a couple of methods that I'm interested in learning more about (as well as some that I'm going to cut out/avoid); one of which I'll be sharing tomorrow. And I truly appreciate having this blog to just blah-blah-blah about this stuff. While I try not to be chained to everything I say here (flexibility and ability to change is a good thing), it does give me a sense of accountability to myself - a positive one, and I like it. So, thanks for reading and thanks further for keeping me in check. Ha! Get it? Check?!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cravings Thus Far

"Crave for a thing, you will get it. Renounce the craving, the object will follow you by itself." - Swami Sivananda

And when a preggers lady renounces a craving, WATCH THE HECK OUT!

(Great. Now I totally want mint chocolate chip.)

Seriously, I haven't been craving a whole lot. The first trimester, I had a few random ones, but mostly had nausea. No "actual" illness (luckily!), but lots of appetite-killing nausea. The urges are currently a lot milder when I get a craving, though. I think it's due to the fact that I wasn't eating much at all before, so when I finally WANTED something to eat, I'd jump at it immediately.

In all honesty, my cravings have mostly been junk food-related. Oh, the shame! This includes one trip to McDonald's (yes, you read that correctly...I still weep over the treatment of the cow I ate), another trip to Taco Bell, and several other very much non-organic, non-natural choices. *sigh* Can we say Fruit Loops...or Jax with ketchup? (And I historically ate Jax; it's not a weird pregnancy thing.) If you don't know what Jax are...well, you'll need to find out. They're awesome!And, seriously organic Fruit Loops BETTER be in the works...which disappoints me about how processed some of these organic foods are, ick.

Pickles are a norm for me, so I figured I'd lose the taste for them during pregnancy. Nope! Still tasty to me. So, I eat organic versions of those. I snack on baby carrots (generally organic) and hummus, eat apples, nosh on organic low-fat mozzarella sticks, immerse my all-natural salsa with multi-grain tortilla chips, and dip into my Chobani strawberry Greek yogurt (occasionally with a handful of Grape-Nuts or Kashi cereal). I'm drinking close to zero caffeine (caffeine-free green tea, yes) and as much water and milk as I can currently stand. I'm sure the water's still not enough, especially at this lip-chapped time of year, but I'm trying. I'm trying with everything I eat.

My meals are pretty normal, except for the occasional crapfest from a fast food joint (or even a frozen all-natural pizza - just because Paul Newman's name is on it and they do their best to make it with less chemicals, it's still horrible for you). I'd LIKE to eat more chicken and fish, but I'm lucky if I get one serving of each per week, just because I tend not to be hungry enough (and fish tends to make me a tad sick). At least I can stomach a simple salad again, 'cuz for awhile there it was rough for my salad-eatin' hubby.

So, that's a quick update on what I'm eatin'. Exciting stuff, I know. ;-) In the beginning, I was constantly researching what we could eat (my poor mother had cut up an entire pineapple for me only to find out that it was on one of my "you're askin' for complications" lists...now I'm dying for it!) But, hey, considering that my grandmother had 5 successful pregnancies while drinking TONS of coffee and smoking LOTS of cigarettes, I guess I can't mess things up too badly, can I? ;-)

Anyone want to share cravings they've had while pregnant - or, for those who've never had a baby, what you're looking forward to totally indulging in? ;-) What? It's fun to dream!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Few Answers...and Non-Answers

So, ever since we made our "big announcement" (which I simply alluded to here, sneaky me), which was actually news quite awhile ago for close friends and families and came out in strategic drips-and-drabs to avoid being completely inundated by kind folks, we've had lots of questions flung our way. Some, I'm happy to answer. Some, however, we won't. The only reason we're not answering them is because we are brutally mean and out to piss every person we know OFF. BIG time.

(In case you don't realize, that was a complete joke. We're not out to upset ANYONE!! :-) We want our bundle of joy to be just that - bringin' nothin' but happy.)

If you'd meet Dave and I face-to-face, you'd find that we are actually pretty quiet and low-key about everything baby-related. This isn't to say that we're not absolutely ecstatic and excited about our special delivery. We really are!! But, we, as a couple, tend to stray on the side of privacy and, to a certain extent, are uber-controlling about that side of our lives. I'm sure it's one thing that frustrated a family member or two (or all of them) as to how we went about planning our wedding; we wanted things a certain way (and not "out of our hands") and didn't appreciate a ton of interference in the process. I know that this is impossible with a certain amount of things, baby-wise, but some of it we can keep tabs on.

There's a part of me that feels guilty even writing about the fact that I am pregnant, knowing that some I'm very close with may be against being so public, but while Dave and I are a private couple, I tend to be a huge embarrassment of an open book. This blog is insanely important to me as an outlet, and if anyone out there can learn from my experiences and mistakes or get a chuckle from how miserably I fail at something (simply bound to happen, folks!), that means everything. Simultaneously, I'm not even sure that I'll divulge pictures of the baby on the blog when that time comes, or post its name. (We'll see!) So, clearly, there's a level of protection that my family deserves, while I'm able to spout off about whatever-the-heck-I-wanna here in Blogland.

As for the little one, we're learning as time goes by and we sit on certain ideas and questions, that answers often arise on their own, without much conversation whatsoever. It's the "Zen Decision" method, and it works well for us. On other points, we'll have to discuss until the very end and possibly not have a decisive outcome...but those are between the parents, anyway, so folks won't even know whether we've made a decision or not. We're sneaky lil' buggers. ;-) Mwahahaha!

Some of the questions that we've received that we've got answers for include:

"When are you due?" (Thank goodness no one has asked this out of the blue. I'm not really showing yet!) July 3rd, but I'd love a July 4th baby. A "Yankee Doodle Dandy", if you will. And I've heard all the fireworks jokes and comments one human can stand. ;-)

"Are you going to find out the gender of the baby?"
No. This was one of those "sat silently and thought about it" decisions that we agreed to completely in the end. Strangely enough, before we got pregnant, Dave was all for this decision and I was all about finding out. Then, one day, it just hit me...then DAVE was the one reminding me how hard it was to purchase clothes, etc in advance for my sister's daughter (who remained sex-less 'til she arrived).

It was a tough one for us, but knowing that a) mistakes can happen (the doctor thought he saw a *honk-honk* when it was actually an *awooga*) and b) I very much dislike when someone refers to the baby by its name (because the gender is supposedly known) before it's born - especially at a baby shower (with the name in decorations all over the place - ack!). My Irish blood feels like it has to do a million counter-superstitions to make up for it.

So, no. We don't want to know what it's packin'.

"What's its nickname?" If, by nickname, you mean "Peanut", "Bean", "Pea", or any other adorable concept such as "Scooter", it doesn't have one...yet. If it does, that will probably be between Daddy and me. It's another sort of privacy thing. The same as not posting the ultrasound pictures all over Facebook or on the blog (although I've shown the folks who have wanted to see, in real person). "Sure, let's put my wife's uterus out there for the whole world to look at." When Dave puts it that way, I totally agree. I know folks want to share the connection to the bundle of joy as soon as possible (I get it - 9 months is a long time to wait before meeting someone), but it's a game of patience, I suppose.

"What names are you considering?" Nice try! I've mentioned a few to my mother and mother-in-law, but even that I'm considering halting. For example, the next week, I'll find that Dave suddenly doesn't feel the same way about the name, or apparently never DID like it, or something to that effect. Yeah. We haven't gotten into the discussion much, but odds are we'll have two girl names and two boy names in our back pockets going into labor, then after meeting the little one, we'll make the decision. I'd hate to say one name then have it look nothing like that name. :-)

"But how will you decide what colors to put in the nursery, then?" (asked with a sense of panic, which I find hysterical) Hee hee, I already know. Well, for the most part. While I'd love to have the nursery 100% complete when the little one comes home, I'm aiming for maybe 80-90% done.

Currently, the color on the walls is a nice light blue. No, I'm not "hoping for" a boy - although it would be neat to have the "big brother protector" like I had (but I have a feeling it's a girl...I've had dreams...and it'd be neat to give my niece, Lizzie, a female cousin pretty close in age), but it's a nice color and I'd like to work with what we have, to an extent. PLUS, we've already found the perfect shade of green (no, not sage) to go in the room - just gotta get more accessories to go with it. Then, after the little one comes, I'll throw up some orange accents for a boy or purple accents for a girl. Seriously, it works in my brain. This is one area that I'm happy to "divulge all" here. :-)

"Cloth or disposable?" Tentatively, cloth (but some more eco-friendly disposables in the very beginning - most cloth diapers don't fit a newborn very well). And they ain't your mama's (or grandma, depending on your age) cloth diapers. Stay tuned for lots more information that I've dug up through hours upon hours of research. :-)

"Bottle or boob?" Is anyone surprised that I referred to it that way...and is anyone else surprised that I'm actually WRITING about such a personal thing? (Seriously. Have you MET me?) Yes, I'll gladly talk about boobs and what comes out of them...but not find out the sex or divulge the name. I'm weird, what can I say?

Anyhoo, to answer the question: If I can, I will. If it's too much of a challenge to the point where it's no longer healthy for the baby to keep trying, I'll admit defeat and consider it a job well-attempted. But, I'm really, really hoping that it works.

So, those are the questions that we're WILLING to answer, or at least have answers for. As with lots of big life changes, there's always a chance that an answer or two will change. We're human, and it's our prerogative (anyone else start singing the song in their heads...or, better yet, out loud?) to reconsider.

I'm always open to positive input and feedback, so feel free to share experiences and comment below! :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Word of the Year

I was inspired (as always!) by the positivity of Layla at The Lettered Cottage, with her recent post about choosing a "Word of the Year". As you know, I don't really "do" resolutions. But to look forward on the new year ahead as a way to recharge and rethink things a bit - now that, I do. :-)

As some of you may have noticed on one of my very rare Facebook posts recently (sometimes it's the only way to connect to the most people, whatchya gonna do?), we've got some exciting news in our humble little house. So, when looking forward to the year ahead, how could my "word of the year" NOT be...

Yep. I'd say that accurately describes what's to come in 2012. There are a few reasons that "life" just works for us this year, but the most important is the fact that we're bringing new life into the world this year. More specifically, early July (if all goes according to plan...and how often does THAT happen?).

I could have gone all one-track-mind and said that "baby" should be the 2012 word of the year, but for over half of the year, there won't be a baby in sight. (On the brain, sure. In sight? Nope.) Plus, I'm sure that, although the little one will be our "big news" (and the biggest CHANGE) this year, there will be other interesting occurrences that will definitely be a part of our "life". In a way, I'm sure the word "change" would have been an appropriate choice, as well.

Every cliche quotation or saying that uses the word "life" seems to be relevant. I've heard so very many times that "life begins when you have a child". As the joy of parenthood hits both of us, "life is beautiful" rings true. So, sure, all that's to be expected...and is making 2012 out to be the most important year of our lives so far.

But, there are a few other aspects of "life" that we're hoping to focus on this year, in addition to "the addition" - a lot of it is to make life happier FOR the little one.

One life change that we're already working on, big-time, is simplification. Life around this place has been pretty cluttered, especially when it comes to our clothes situation. That whole "you only wear 20% of your wardrobe" (or 10%, depending on what you read) seriously rings true. While we're not donating or selling 80% or 90% of our clothes (and accessories), I'm aiming for closer to 50% for my own belongings. We've currently got a pile growing in our upstairs hallway, which is daunting, but I'm hoping will feel therapeutic and uplifting to be rid of.

Our closet situation includes one in our office, one in our bedroom, and one in our guest room (soon to be nursery). Dave was using both the bedroom and office closets and I used the guest room closet, mostly because he wears lots more suits to work and has lots of other items to store that wouldn't fare well in the basement. He also has two small dressers in our room; I have a large one in the guest room, which we're finally paring down and moving into our room. It'll be a big game of "musical dressers", but I'm inspired that Dave already worked on emptying one of the dressers. We're gettin' there!

Oh, and we even did a big haul-and-donate from, of all places, our built-in area. I'm sure I'll be posting about the "after" of this space, but I've just got to share how ecstatic I was to be able to find a way to dispose of the unopened health and beauty products that I don't use (the non-environmentally friendly ones that I had stocked up on awhile back). Dave dropped off a box of items to Evelyn's House, which provides housing, education and care for mothers and babies who have become homeless. Seriously, I cried reading about the place - although it's pretty easy to get me sobbing over truly meaningful subjects lately. Hormones!

Along with simplifying how much stuff we have, we're adding organization solutions and will try to utilize the space we have better. I'm excited to set up an organizer in our basement (which Dave is in the midst of cleaning/Dryloking/painting!) that will give us at least another closet of organization. And while we hear that babies accumulate lots of stuff (let's rephrase that: when babies COME, stuff SEEMS to accumulate), our requests for baby items will be well-thought and with need and space in mind. We're already appreciative of whatever we'll receive, but hope that folks can keep these things in mind, as well. :-)

I'm hoping that 2012 will bring with it some inspiration and clarification as to some of the big questions in our lives, helping us to truly live life to the fullest and not take things for granted. We also hope to maintain balance in our lives in order to give our child (and future children) the best experiences that we can.

I know this post seems a bit vague in some areas, but when the future brings some unknowns, it can be a bit anxiety-invoking. Ultimately, the biggest philosophy I need to remember is that this is where life begins...everyday...and it's up to us to do with it what we deem possible and necessary. While thinking about "life" everyday could be daunting, I find it a reminder not to sweat the small problems and to truly enjoy the (small and large) good. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

The Lettered Cottage

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One of My Favorites

I like sweet potato fries. Okay, let me rephrase that. I adore well-made sweet potato fries. I'm disappointed when I see "substitute sweet potato fries $.50" on a menu only to receive a tasteless cardboard substitute. *sigh* That's happened a depressing amount of times, which leads me to think that I put too much merit into the most mundane of things. But, seriously, if you've had flavorful, slightly crispy ones (with an awesome dipping sauce, optional), you can see why I absolutely beam when I see that little menu substitution in the first place. My husband, and for that matter anyone else eating alongside me, generally get a kick out of it. Kind of like watching a kid on Christmas.

While homemade SP fries can't seem to compare, texture-wise, to those you find in a restaurant, I still think they're worth making. Firstly, you know that the only ingredient on its list is "sweet potato" (with the exception of the olive oil and seasonings you choose). The nutrient factor seems higher when you know you've cut an honest to goodness hunk of vegetable down to size. Secondly, you can control whether it's fried or baked. Of course, in our household they're always baked. a) I've got a husband with a leaning toward high cholesterol and b) I'm not big into frying stuff, mostly because I'm incredibly lazy and don't want to deal with the disposal of the used oil. Thirdly, and finally, comes the flavor. Even when they come out soggy, it turns out to be a nicely seasoned roasted sweet potato wedge that can still be used as a tasty side to any meal. Even when it's yucked up, it's worth it.

So, I don't have a tried-and-true way to make fool-proof sweet potato fries. Bummer. BUT, I've done enough Googling of a million or so recipes and found the common good in all of them. Here's what I made tonight...

Sweet Potato Fries

One large sweet potato
Olive oil
Chili powder
Cumin powder
(Optional: Mrs. Dash)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Yes, seriously, that hot.

Carefully cut the sweet potato into long slices (I cut mine in half so they weren't as long), around 1/2" thick. Toss in olive oil (enough to coat each side but not enough to "swim") on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Season with the above seasonings. (I did 2 versions - half of the sheet with the 4 seasonings, the other half with just pepper and low-sodium Mrs. Dash. Why don't you guess who's eating the Mrs. Dash side.) Bake for around 20 minutes (don't open the door!), then flip each wedge before baking for another 15-20 minutes.

Allow to rest. Serve with ketchup, ranch dressing or the below dipping sauce.

Today, I took a cue from Giada and tried a mayo-based dipping sauce. Of course, I tweaked her recipe a bit.

Mayo Dipping Sauce

Large scoop of mayo (1/4 cup, or however much you'd like to make); I used organic mayo
One garlic clove, minced
Spritz of lemon
Seasonings (in this case, cumin & chili powder)

Mix all ingredients together. (I did this in a small mason jar.) Refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes for flavors to meld. You may also just create a simple dip, leaving seasonings out - it'll taste like a garlic aoili.

Now, go forth and enjoy like a cat writhing around and stretching out in all his cute glory. That is, if you're into sweet potatoes...and who isn't? ;-)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Planning is Half the Battle

I've been supercharged to work on the bathroom lately. I'm not sure where the sudden burst of energy has come from...but my guess is that it's partially the all-consuming guilt of watching how much hard work the hubby has been putting in whenever he can find the energy and brain power to head to the basement and sweat-it-out. (Mind you, he's been scrubbing, Cloroxing, Dryloking, painting, and moving a kazillion personal items that should probably just be living in a dumpster. It's not an exercise routine, but it could be.) It puts me to serious shame that I look at my bathroom ceiling thinking, "Well, I could use a tad more spackle on that angle..." And it's true. It does need more spackle. Otherwise, the ceiling's looking mighty fine, compared to what it USED to look like. Here's a reminder of the "before" (no "afters" quite yet):

But, that's pretty much it. Our floors are the same. Our walls are staring at us in all their ugly glory (although, one day I came up with the bright idea of chiseling away at some of the how-many-colors-of-brown-exist-anyway mini-tiles, only to finally come to the realization that I'll have to find a better way...ie, admitting defeat). The shower is clean, even if it doesn't totally LOOK it...but has tears in the stupid liner that the smartiepants previous owners put up that will inevitably grow into a bigger problem. And I'm re-thinking the pedestal sink, depending upon how long we live in the ol' Crooked House.

So, while I was waiting around for Dave to finish some stuff up before fun, relaxed Sunday errand-running, I grabbed the measuring tape and started, well, using it. The backside of a bill envelope later, I had measurements for flooring, wainscoting, and if I was better at math, the tub surround. Just having this information at my fingertips made me feel empowered.

Here's the revised plan, yo:

- Flooring - Don't cry on me, now, but given the weird unevenness of our floor and, in all honesty, the cost factor, I've pretty much set my mind on using peel-and-stick tiles. *gasp* I know. If this was going to be our "forever home", I'd get some self-leveling stuff and roll up my sleeves, but sometimes it feels like the more money we put into the house, we might as well just flush it down the toilet. While it'd be nice to make money on the house (in theory, we should...it SHOULD be a given), after hearing what some of the NON-FORECLOSED houses in our area are getting lately, it'll take a heck of a lot of faith and patience to make much. *sigh* But, we shall see!

Anyhoo, I've done some online snooping as to the tiles I'd like, but it'll be way simpler to just go to Lowe's (or Home Depot, which is half an hour away) and pick out what's available that I like. I'm on the fence between the 12"x12" or the 18"x18". I'm kind of preferring the idea of what I can do (it's a secret, y'all can't know ;-D) with the 18-inchers, but honestly...I suck at math and don't quite know if I can figure out how much of it I'll need for our square footage. Yeah, I'm THAT bad at math. Either way, I want it as natural-looking as possible, with a light brown theme. (The whole room is going to be a LOT brighter - no deep browns.)

Oh, and let's use this moment as a reminder that I totally used peel-and-stick when working on our cellarway about a year ago this time (wow, a year already?) and they've held up wonderfully.

Here's proof that it can totally not suck:

- Walls - Sure, there's paint. I've already got a swatch picked for the upper walls. But, to handle the disgusting mosaic tile situation, I'm using another sort of "cover-up" solution. This isn't to say that it's an easy-way-out. It'll still involve prying off the current woodwork (then priming and painting it white before reinstalling it...and touching it up), lots of "interesting" measuring and cutting, and, of course, quite possibly moving the sink and uninstalling the toilet. All this simply before using some awesome construction adhesive (which is specifically formulated for bathrooms, woohoo) to adhere some white wainscoting to the tiles. We also need to add some new trim to the top (since it doesn't currently have any there). Whew, that'll finish off the walls, though, and make a huge difference. Oh, and the fact that, if my math serves correctly, we'll just need one piece of wainscoting, which costs less than $20. So, between that, probably a quart of the wall paint (don't have much to paint, mind you) and some trim...can we assume it'll be less than $50 project? Regardless, it'll have a huge impact.

- Shower area - The idea here is to completely rip down the current shower liner that is torn in various spots (I think because they either didn't adhere it correctly OR they didn't have proper cement board), amend whatever the situation may BE behind the stuff (*shivers* at the thought of purchasing and installing cement board...not sure why), then tile it with subway tile. Perhaps a $300+ job? Then, for an additional $50, I'd like the tub to be refinished, probably using this stuff. All of the above, my stepfather has done at my parents' house, so at least we have someone who's quite experienced with it (who's also hopefully willing to help!!!). But, I'm not so sure that I can help with ANY of the above stuff. It might be "man's work", and I may have to beg or bribe my dear husband to do it with Jerry. :-)

See the tan tub? It has a pink undertone, and needs a facelift.
This picture somehow makes it look GOOD. It's. Really. Not.

And now for some inspiration after that grossness...

Dude, this is from a loft complex in Boston. Jealous much!
Ours wouldn't have the clear sliding door...or the tile wrapping around.

- Vanity - This one's a complete 50/50 decision right now. While I'd like the storage of a new vanity, between the cost and space that one would take up, I'm not sure how I feel. I think Dave and I have both decided that, since we'll hopefully have a family, and with his awesomesauce new shaving set-up, we'll need more bathroom space than a pedestal sink allows for. So, if we can find a nice, small white one for a low price, we may have to think about going for it. Until then, it's not a must-have like the other stuff.

- Open shelving - Pretty self explanatory, this refers to the shelves to the left of the shower that used to have doors on them (very ugly 1970s doors). They need to be painted, inside and out, and I'm thinking they need some simple, modern shelf paper. Or not. Oh, and the spots where the hinges used to live need to be filled. Otherwise, I'm kind of fine with leaving it all as white and just using the storage more wisely, thankyouverymuch.

Here's my "open shelving inspiration" from my very favorite blogging couple:

So, there you have it. Wow, after writing it out, things seem a tad more daunting. But, oh well, I've got some "winter time" to work on this stuff, don't I? Between this and trying to rid myself of LOTS of clothes, I should be able to keep myself busy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

They're Not Resolutions

This year, we're not making resolutions in the ol' cat folk homestead. We're not usually into the tradition of saying "I resolve to...*fill in the blank*". I think it's the inevitable wop-wop sound of defeat when we get too busy to, say, watch what we're eating or be the kindest human we can possibly be or find time for our dreams. It's as if you've failed, and can't go back and try again until the NEXT new year. Silly. Humans make mistakes - hence why we need resolutions in the first place, I suppose. And if you're one of the millions of people who do make them, seriously, good for you! It's neat to be part of the tradition. Heck, we even did a *version* of making resolutions last year...kind of.

Instead, we use this time of year to essentially recharge and refocus, as do many. We quietly reflect upon the wonderful positivity of the past and vow to appreciate such luck in the future. We consider the negatives that have befallen us and analyze whether they were issues that we can either a) avoid altogether or b) handle with more grace in the future. It can be wonderful...but can also be a very melancholy time. Why the heck is that, anyway?

Dave recently, mere moments after we both agreed NOT to make resolutions, announced a personal something that he'd like to work on in 2012. Being ever the kind, sweet wife, I immediately pounced on him with, "Didn't you just say 'no resolutions'?" (I know, I know. He's so lucky to have me, isn't he?) He then went on to, in his own eloquent way, define resolutions - I'm paraphrasing here, and please chastise me if I get this wrong, honey - as a certain goal. For example, "This year, I'm going to lose weight." "In 2012, I'm going to eat more vegetables." "I'm going to quit smoking, once and for all." All admirable goals. But, Dave suggested, and I agreed, that this time of year shouldn't be about goals. It should be more about paths and objectives.

Sure, objectives can be considered the same thing as goals, but we're redefining it a bit for our purposes - any objections? *ba da crash* I guess I see it as Resolution Lite. (Sorry, I hate the marketing scheme of misspelling words!) If I don't lose 15 pounds exactly, but instead focus on healthy weight loss, even with the occasional fall off the horse, it's easier to get back on. Like getting on a miniature pony instead of a Clydesdale. Okay, now I've confused you. Ignore that paragraph if you are.

All I'm saying is that I'd much rather focus on getting on the right path to bettering myself versus a certain goal. And, believe me, I know this isn't for everyone. Some folks truly need an ultimate goal in order to set better boundaries and see it through to the end - but me? I disappoint too easily, and get very down on myself. By remembering that life's a series of journeys, I can decide to try a path toward a better life and feel a lot better about a smoothly sloping road rather than a bumpy ride that makes you fall on your butt 18 times in a row.

So, how's about some specifics? My biggest interest for 2012 involves...drumroll, please...FINANCES!

Crickets chirp.

Wow. Seriously, I know it's boring, but you didn't have to be so quiet about it. :-P I know, you probably thought that I was going to say that it involved diet and eating naturally and going to the farmers market and...yeah, we've already been working on all those things, and that path has already been tread by the fam. And guess what! We're STILL traveling on it. That's just one of the many paths that we'll continue upon (much like finding other ways to be greener, among others) that will add excitement to the journey. So hold your horses. ;-)

I've read from many of my blog wanderings that there are tons of folks who have become debt-free. While, again, we don't need to make a measurable goal out of our resolutions, I ultimately know that it simply wouldn't be realistic to say, "We'll be debt-free by the end of 2012." Between what Dave and I are both paying off, and the incomes that we bring in (our cost of living is low, but so is the local income level), it just isn't plausible. Heck, we may be able to do the math to determine WHEN we COULD be debt-free...that'd be neat. But, it's not a goal. I just want to get on top of my darn "what's coming in, what's going out" ratios - THEN analyze my "what's getting saved and for what" junk. And, of course, all of this ties back to our "what do we really, truly need around this joint" numbers. So, when I say finances, it does actually get me more excited than, y'know, crickets chirping. And, hopefully, that's a good sign!

What else for 2012? A lot of it has to do with what I'm forced to think about every time I look around the house - that being, when this place was built in 1925, folks didn't have 8+ winter jackets of 5 different pairs of boots (EACH!). Plus, I'm young! I don't deserve some of the stuff I DO have! It just needs to be toned down (not that I'm not keeping the awesome stuff - I'm truly appreciative, it just needs to find a home within our space). This involves purging clothes. Hopefully sifting through (and getting rid of) anything we simply don't need. Another garage sale is in the works (our poor, stuffed basement). All that fun stuff. :-)

Ultimately, if you want to put a label on the year (again, not a resolution, 'cuz it's uber-vague...that's how I like 'em ;-)), I'd call it SIMPLIFY. There are lots of ways to do it. I've looked at magazines, seen books, and even noticed a plethora of web sites and blogs that discuss it...then I even saw our friend Cara share this on Facebook! It was like an omen. I want to do a tad more reading up before I decide "Okay, do I throw out 50 things...100...365?" or determine "There's a better way that doesn't involve such quantitative results-based actions". (That's my one impressive sentence of the year - enjoy it.) But, either way, I hope to write 'bout it, so you'll get to see all the crap I have. Lucky you. :-)

So, what about you? Are you making a resolution this year? Are you avoiding them altogether and just living life? Either way, do share - I love it, either way, when folks make up their minds to live in a more positive way. It forces my natural pessimism to take a momentary hike.

***By the way, I just noticed that, while I had completely STARTED a follow-up post actually meant to show the collages (which, yes, I completed in record time and even took pictures of...and, yes, I made more than one) which I never ended up finishing and posting! It's that whole "insert picture here" thing that sometimes holds me up. My bad, I suck. I'll be working on that. Sorry!***