Sunday, February 26, 2012

It Ain't Perfect, But...

Slowly but surely (the operative word here being "slowly"), small bathroom projects are getting accomplished. I decided to start "at the top" and work my way down, for the time being.

This meant tackling the ceiling. When I say "tackling", I mean it in the most literal sense one can without having torn the whole thing down. It was a bull to work with, and still isn't completely perfect...but, for our purposes, I'm calling it successfully completed. Woohoo!

The issue involves prep work that our predecessors completed...mmm...shall we say...crappily. My mom insists that she sees proof of duct tape (yes, that) used to try to seal up some cracks, and the paint was separating in a million spots (probably due to improper paint for a humid bathroom, but that's just a guess). I'm not sure it's a battle I can ever completely win. Here's what we were given...

My tactics, be them accurate or not, involved scraping and pulling down tape, sanding everything down, putting up mesh tape, spackling and sanding x2, priming, then painting a few coats of regular ceiling paint. Again, it's not perfect, but when the lights aren't all on, it looks pretty darn smooth and almost passable.

There are still some lines to cope with and a *chance* that the tearing/separating paint issue will come back - but just take my word for it. It's tough to get true-to-life pictures of white. :-) The second picture is the most strife with real life issues.

The next steps will be to paint the upper half of the walls with a color soon-to-be-mixed (it's been selected for a looooong time...oops!), and sanding and painting LOTS of coats of white in the open shelving closet area (and probably around the window trim - can you say "chocolate brown"?). Then comes the real work of doing paneling (I'd much rather call it "wainscoting", although it's really just a doppelganger), painting the rest of the chocolate trim (which makes it sound like Willy Wonka's bathroom, doesn't it?), and flooring (which will most likely involve having to unhook the toilet 'n stuff, ugh). THEN, on to the troubled tub area. Whew!

Just wanted to keep everyone updated and keep myself motivated (ie have some sort of accountability, hee hee). So, thanks for providing that - I bet you didn't even know you were my motivation! Well, you guys and, y'know, a very patient husband and an ever-growing belly. Those are pretty important, too. ;-)

Do you have any projects you're whittling away at, even if it takes months? Feel free to share!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prenatal Yoga

I've mentioned wanting to try yoga, and most recently prenatal yoga, a few times. My reasons have ranged from exercise to improving my mood to helping in the birthing process -- ohhh, there are lots of reasons. So, after work last Friday, I ran home to change into something comfortable and headed to Universal Yoga Center in New Hartford. (That's about 30 minutes away, for the record. And, no, there's nothing even similar any closer to home. Boo.) On this particular day, I was lucky enough to have Dave in tow for a post-yoga date.

So, he dropped me off and headed out to kill time while I got my stretch on. I was the first to arrive (I'd been told to come early to fill out a short form), and nervously got myself situated. There were approximately 7 other ladies there (plus the incredible instructor), all ranging from 17 to 36 weeks pregnant.

I don't remember everything about the experience since I was focusing on learning new stretches and feeling the connection with my body and with the baby. I was definitely the "newest", so the instructor seemed to pay some extra attention to me at more challenging points. The yoga itself was all about modification -- especially focusing on the fact that, being pregnant, we may want to try some moves differently than even other women in the room, and definitely differently than how certain types of yoga might be taught.

What I don't recall as far as the technicalities of the yoga itself, my memory makes up for with experiences and ambiance. The low lighting (there's a lot to be said for Christmas lights - it's the first time I've seen lighting like that that wasn't reminiscent of a college dorm) and Eastern instrumental music were instantly calming. The instructor's calm sweetness was inviting and caring - and perfect for a bunch of pregnant ladies! The stretching and moving wasn't altogether too challenging (although there were a couple that proved to me that I need some more balance practice) but just "uncomfortable" enough to provide a mild workout while giving options for relaxation and other needs during labor or as the pregnancy continues. I honestly can't say enough good about the experience.

The breathing techniques and little "tips" that the instructor provided (such as trying one stretch, in a modified way, to help with sciatica issues -- my mom was jealous about that one since apparently I gave her such troubles when she was pregnant with me) were awesome. While the baby stayed pretty much motionless, it started moving during something called the "puppy pose" (an upside-down pose). I like to think the little one enjoyed it, but it just occurred to me that the opposite might have been true, hee hee. At the end of the session, after a long, deep breathing exercise, we made lotus blossoms with our hands and gave up a wish/intention for the baby up and into the universe (or to God, depending on what you believe). THAT was powerful.

The best part of the whole thing (other than that I didn't realize my first session was free - score!) was when I met Dave at the car. I was throwing my bags in the backseat and getting myself situated while he blabbered on - "How was it? Did you like it? Were they nice? Did something happen? Was it okay? Do you hurt?" I think that he had hopes as high as I did about it, and a quiet Meg is a very rare thing. After I had strapped myself into the passenger seat, I finally said, "I'm relaxed." "Oh! Good!!" I got to the business of explaining things shortly thereafter, but his excitement (and apparent nervousness) about it all had him bouncing off the walls. Can't complain about that!

Oh, and for the record, that night he read the children's book he had purchased (while I was at yoga ;-)) to my belly and got to feel it kick for the first time. Overall, it was a very special evening. Throw in a farmers' market trip the next morning, and it was one of the best weekends we've had in awhile.

So, will I be going back? Let's just say that there isn't a session this week, so I'll be returning for their next class. I enjoyed the process so much that I can foresee trying the "mommy and me" yoga (or even just "regular" yoga classes) in the future. The exercises speak to me in their timing (not too quick/extreme, not too slow/boring), with their focus on breathing, relaxation, and inner focus, and the underlying calmness from the instructor's tone and the music (a variation of which I listened to on my Sirius satellite radio the next day - seriously).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parsons Project

So, our office was in a desperate state. Books everywhere. Three, count 'em three desks, all piled with papers - very important papers, mind you (well, most of them), but a clutter of STUFF, nonetheless. It simply wouldn't do, and the husband was even more fed up with it than was I. Actually, I can live in clutter as long as things are relatively CLEAN - you know, the difference between "cluttered" and "unclean" (and there is QUITE a difference) - but since I used the office way less than Dave, I felt it only fair to put the axe to the grindstone. This is a partnership, after all. We're all in this together. *insert other team-building cliches here*

A rare Dave cameo.

My plan has evolved over time. It's gone from tearing up the cheap, ugly, no-padding-used carpet (to our dismay, the floors underneath were treated poorly by the *grumble-so-and-so's* who were the prior owners - they knew they'd be putting the rug down, so what's a slop of paint between strangers? While they were at it, they drizzled white paint on the carpet, too) to creating a completely feng shui space for my creative cutie to write and work. Heck, I've even posted my frustrations about this space in the past. Between the "big life changes" going on around notre maison (everyone calls their house a "casa", but I received our Bringing up Bebe book today so was inspired to try out my rusty French skills -- hey, it's Mardi Gras!!) and the "dude, get on that already"-inspired challenge I'm setting for myself, I figured I'd better get things goin' in this room, be them perfect or not.

The ultimate goal: Declutter by any means possible. This meant moving Dave's childhood (but space-sucking/only-used-for-storage) desk into the basement. Don't worry, we're saving it for future's safe down there. ;-) It also meant doing away with Dave's cheap-o, press board computer "workstation". But, this isn't all about Dave doing away with his stuff. It just happens that my desk was in the best shape of all three, and I had something else in mind for my own work space (that could hopefully help make an office in a future house more stylish and feng shui-able).

My idea was inspired by, of COURSE, a project undertaken by the folks at Young House Love which involved creating one's very own parsons table/desk (or a facsimile thereof) using an interior hollow-core door. Since this was my first of such project, I already know that mine is wobblier, rougher and generally more flawed than it should be...but it still looks pretty good and I've got a husband that couldn't be prouder. So, in hopes of not being too premature, I'd say "mission: accomplished"!

We purchased the lumber and had the hollow-core door trimmed down to a manageable size. Man, did that Lowe's worker look at me like I was a crazy lady! I found a small piece of trim to "finish" that side (although it doesn't fit *perfectly* - no one would notice but me, probably). I used brackets to attach the legs to the "top", then "trimmed" out the front and sides (none in the back) below the top. Here are a few "before" shots of the room for a better idea of what we were working with:

Dave's side of our disorganized craziness.

"My side" of the office. For the record, that's not all my stuff. It's a mutual mess.

Even after we removed the third desk (from the right side), it was still...well, embarrassing.

Aaaaand here's some of the building process:
Soon-to-be table/desk legs that almost killed our saw. Note the burn marks.

 Wee Wee and his sidekick, S.U., "helping."

Spackling (well, wood putty-ing) a bit of the end trim job.

Aaaaand a variation of this is what my poor husband had to deal with for well over a week. This or an in-process version (first coat of primer, second coat of primer, first coat of white semi-gloss, etc). But, finally, as a belated birthday present (or a way to say "I'm sorry for the mess!"), I finally cleared off my desk for the 2012 Great Desk Shuffle. This involved clearing off both desks, moving his "workstation" to the garage (so much easier said than done!), shifting my old desk to "his side", and scooting the faux parsons table into its new home.

 Work in progress...

This is where I'll leave you. Dave's got lots more on and in his desk now (it looks really good, in my humble opinion), but we're still working out the organizational logistics. I'm also hoping to get a lengthy floating shelf from IKEA (courtesy a dear friend who lives much nearer to one) to go above my space, and we'll both be sifting through still more "stuff".

It already feels so much more spacious and organized, even with the crap still laying in piles. I'll be sure to share the organizational tricks we're using (yep, I've already got a few tricks up my sleeve, mwahaha) and the final, handsome space when it comes together. There may be lots of work involved, but it is therapeutic to make your space a lot more enjoyable, usable and fresh.

*On a side note, just gotta admit publicly that I'm not in love with the office wall color. It was one of many VERY early color decisions that we made, and while it's a neutral tan, I see more pink and darkness in it than I'd like. I'm also no longer in love with our green/burgundy vibe (not sure I was ever in love with it...yeah, I should've broken up with it awhile ago) and want to come up with an improvement to the curtains. It needs to be a happy, creative, airy space, and I'm going to get it that way if it kills me! Er...let's take the drama back a few notches...I'm going to get it that waaaaayyyyy uuummmm with lots more online researching for inspiration (ie Pinterest and blog reading, holla!) and hopefully some thrifty finds. Yeah. Like I said, the ultimate goal is for a peaceful, creative, organized space to share with Dave, since he spends a lot of his time at home here. It's a labor of love more than anything.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Built-In Beauty

Organization can be a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a "before shot" on this project because Dave had started working on it before I even realized what was happening. Before I knew it, every item in the upper cabinets was on the floor. I can't really complain about that initiative, can I? That's what I really call a "dude, get on that already" project!

The built-ins at the end of our upstairs hallway made me want to buy our house in the first place. It sounds silly, but we each had something about the house that made us realize that it had to be the first official "us" space (we had lived together in my apartment for only a short time before finding our house). Dave loved the front porch-slash-3 (or 4, depending on how warm you like to stay)-season-room, so to each his own. :-) Either way, the uniqueness of a craftsman-style house is hard to hate.

I try to reorganize this space once a year, but somehow some pills that we had accumulated were REALLY expired, so Dave put a bag together of medications that we'll dispose of when a pharmacy holds a proper disposal drive.The same goes for lots of beauty items that had been compiled. I always figured that I'd just use them up, but I'd always purchase an eco-friendly option (and want to try it out) after running low on shampoo or body wash. I hardly even USE conditioner. So, after some thought and conversation, we realized that we could donate the un-used beauty products to a local facility called Evelyn's House (which helps out young mothers and their children). I was ecstatic that, not only could we find a use for our items that were never going to be used and taking up way too much space, but that they could go to help out such an inspiring cause. Win-win!

Here's the whole shebang, well, way improved. Sheets on top, towels in the middle, random larger items (like a tote holding all of our travel-sized items, my "clothes shaver", and Neti-Pot), and all toiletries (organized accordingly) and first aide items in plastic containers on the bottom. Seriously, the "before" was craziness.

So, after some moving around...followed by still more shifting...followed by lots more finagling...we figured out how to utilize the space. And, who knows? Next year, it may look completely different. But what I'm most excited about is that we emptied some of the lower drawers for more storage. Y'know. Like for seasonal clothes...or baby stuff. :-)

How'd we empty drawers? Well, one way was by getting absolutely brutal about what we need. Seriously, how many semi-complete sets of sheets do folks need? Then, we found space to pile the towels and sheets (which, by the way, don't look any nicer utilizing the "Martha Stewart - put all sheets into one pillowcase trick"...just sayin') on the shelves rather than hiding away in the drawers. I kind of like that it makes the space look a little airier rather than "stuff laden". I'm sure a cute basket or two will help add some more storage prettiness, eventually.

On a side note, this project occurred well over a week ago (more like two or three weekends ago). LAST weekend, we did some more organizational work...but there's still lots more to do, so I won't bug you with it. Not yet. ;-) And the ultimate goal with all this craziness is to create more usable space in our home to make a new baby's arrival slightly less stressful than it already will be. We'd much rather focus on learning how to parent; not where to fit stuff and having our home AND minds cluttered. Not a very positive way to live, is it? So, every little bit of work that we're doing - from Drylok-ing the basement to cleaning out a built-in to filling bags for Goodwill - bring us one step closer to the "more fun" baby stuff (nursery decorating, etc).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

This year, I'm all about Valentine's Day. Who knows, next year I may not be - I'm an ever-changing person who has a hard time ever making her mind up fully about...well, much. The important things (like a, pretty good with. The little stuff like "how do I feel about Valentine's Day?" - eh, we'll see.

Last year's day o' love was pretty crappy. I don't recall whether I went to school, but I know that I felt AWFUL. That night, we were in the car, on our way to our favorite "only for special occasions" place to eat, when I knew we had to turn around. Neither one of us was going to enjoy it. It took months to finally get there for our "Valentine's Day dinner." Huge bummer.

This year has already gone smashingly. I've learned that, although Dave's not a mushy guy by any means (sensitive in his thinking, yes...mushy, no), he's got a romantic streak and seems to love showing it...when appropriate. ;-) We don't discuss our feelings a whole lot, so it's awesome to take some time out to communicate it, and to know you're appreciated. Plus, this year, we're sharing an extra special type of love -- and enjoying the last semblance of peacefulness in our relationship before parenthood.

Every girl likes getting a flower. Heck, some even love it. While I'm by no means a girlie-girl, I AM a girl, after all...and I, too, enjoy gettin' me a flower or two.

What's even cooler is when you get a gift that millions of other people on Earth would probably roll their eyes over, hate to receive, or simply be puzzled by - but which I adore. This morning, after I got my sweet, sweet card and just as sweet pink rose (it's a good thing pink is growing on me ;-)), I was given the third season of "Avonlea", a TV series that I watched when I was a kid that I still LOVE to this day (which, of course, isn't in reruns anywhere). It's one that I've insisted our children watch, and strangely enough, Dave has grown to like it, too. (Mostly when a certain character is in the episode. He's a Jasper fan. Any idea where I thought of our third little boy's name?)

Even without our awesomesauce dinner plans tonight, I'd say this is one of the best V-days I've ever had. Knowing that the hubs truly knows and appreciates me (and who I am - I mean, seriously, "Avonlea"?!) just. Makes. It.

Oh, and I can't say what I GOT for him (since I'm giving it to him this evening...and it's more of a "made for" thing than "bought"), but I can tell you that I made him a card. Half of you will think that's sweet...half of you will think I'm a 6-year-old. I'll post a picture soon so that YOU can be the judge. :-)

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day (which, by the way, is not a "made up" holiday...if it was, then I suppose you could say that ALL holidays were made up by someone ;-); my opinion just so happens to sway in the middle - it was originally a pagan fertility holiday that was merged by early Christians to represent a day to honor St. Valentine (or any variation of the name)...the old jail story's a good one, too, though) and were able to take time to enjoy and appreciate the love in your life, from wherever it may come.

On a sentimental side note, this day has always been a bittersweet one for a seemingly random reason. My thoughts are inclined to sway into memories of my grandfather on Valentine's Day. He was one of several men whom we considered our stand-in father (along with our brothers, and eventually a step dad). He wasn't obligated to do anything special for my siblings and I, but he always went above and beyond the call of normal grandfatherly duties to make us feel special, and to teach us what a true gentleman should look like. As young children, he used to get my sister and I (and, if I recall correctly, my mother) each a huge box of chocolates with which to celebrate the day. Of course, now I'm a crying pregnant mess, but it reminds me of how special he made us feel, and how lucky I am to be married to just such a gentleman.

Monday, February 13, 2012

30 Before 30

I saw this "30 Before 30" idea on Making It Lovely and thought "I should so do that!" Actually, I first thought that I had already turned 30...don't even ask me why I thought that. Call it pregnancy brain, or the fact that the pregnancy has got me feeling, emotionally, rrrreeeeeaaaally way older than I actually know I am (and feel).

My thirtieth birthday's on May 1st. This means that, from today, I've got about 2 1/2 months to do some of this stuff. Plus, I'm preggers, and quickly feeling that "gut pain" thing that happens upon over-excursion. You child-bearing ladies know what I'm talking about. It's like when Jasper uses his hind legs to push all of his weight (which is sizable) into your belly in a spring-loaded take-off. I'd know; he did that yesterday. It's the epitome of "OOF!"

While I'm not into the whole "let's have a huge party" thing (one exception: the surprise shindig Dave threw for me a couple of years back with the help of my mom and sister - who expects a huge 28th birthday surprise party??), I am into the "let me reflect upon this milestone" aspect of things. So, a 30 before 30 list seems manageable. Especially if I take it easy on my pregnant self. Let's see what I can come up with here...

1. Try a yoga class.
2. Start adding to savings.
3. Organize the office.
4. Go for a walk. (You'd be surprised at how hard this is!)
5. Go antiquing.
6. Get some more Etsy goodies posted.
7. Organize the ol' blog.
8. Get rid of 25% more of my wardrobe.
9. Organize/clean out my laptop (pictures & iTunes -- need room for the baby's music, after all).
10. Do some major curb appeal work (spray paint the shutters, kill the ivy , paint the side door, paint the "porch", hang the numbers, plant some pretties)
11. Switch the living room from red accents to...
12. At least organize the craziness that is The Basement Monster.
13. Find someone to take the bed in order to change "guest room" into "nursery."
14. Get a hairstyle.
15. Make some paper cranes (or other awesome origami art).
16. Do some painting...not in the home improvement way.
18. Learn how to use a plain ol' digital camera in the best way possible.
19. Try to post more original pictures on the blog.
20. Gain weight, but not too much. (Seriously, I haven't gained a pound yet, even though my stomach's gotten a bit bigger. How is that possible?!)
21. Make some DIY soap -- be it hand soap or laundry soap.
22. Go through all my dust-collecting books and donate/sell what I'll never read/didn't like.
23. Go some place new with the hubs.
24. Plan a smaller, but manageable garden. (Planting will have to occur well after May 1st. Unless we continue to have a #cancelwinter.)
25. Pick some baby names that we both can live with. (It'd be nice if we both LOVED them, but live with is the current goal.)
26. Set up Amazon Affiliate.
27. Take a road trip.
28. Find enough room to actually be able to have every piece of my wardrobe put away simultaneously. Then follow through.
29. Reupholster the wine chair and slipcover/paint the ottoman.
30. Pick up the house once a week. (Yes, once. It doesn't look horrible the rest of the week if I do it this way. I know myself; once a day isn't gonna happen.)

I think I can live with these. I'm fully expecting not to have the energy/time to accomplish ALL of the above-mentioned items, but lots of them - yup. Besides, it's not like 30 is the end of anything (except one's 20s, I suppose), so what I don't finish, I'll put into my next "To Do" list. Some pressure (like in the form of posting 30 things that you'd like to work on publicly)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Random Pregnancy Post

By "random" I mean some random pregnancy thoughts, all rolled into one post. :-) Just to clarify.

- Yes, I've finally got "a bump". Strangely enough, I haven't had any strangers comment on it yet, nor anyone who didn't already know I was pregnant. A few students are looking at me strangely or whisper to each other, but that's not really different from any other day. ;-) I figure strangers aren't mentioning it because it still looks a bit like a lady who ate a huge Thanksgiving dinner rather than "there's something growing in there" belly. Bought a pair of jeans the next size up from Goodwill (they were brand new, thankyouverymuch), but think I'll need to do a tad more shopping to get me through this "in between" phase. Going to try out a few consignment shops in the area. Oh, and I've definitely got some stuff for when I get BIG.

- Speaking of clothes, my sister was awesome enough to give us a huge Tupperware container full of her newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months (and even beyond!) clothes from her current little bundle of joy. (When I say "bundle of joy", I really mean it. She's awesome.) Most of the clothes are neutral since they didn't learn the sex of her baby prior, either. I know some folks are dying to buy clothes, but I'm happy with what we currently have. We're still clinging tight to the "simplify, simplify, simplify" motto. 

- Movement is a-happenin'. Not a whole lot, but it's there. It's not so much a "flutter" as folks have described it, since it's not that ticklish or butterfly-like, but it's definitely not quite yet a "kick". Mind you, if I was the over-sharing type to post an ultrasound picture, you'd see in one of the latest that this kid's got McCoy legs -- like long frog legs. So, I figure sooner than later it'll start to feel more like a soccer game in "mah bellay." (Fat Bastard? Anyone? Sorry, the hubs and I have a small connection to Austin Powers.)

- It was cool to search for a food question and actually receive a resounding "Yes, you CAN eat that - actually, eat MORE of it!" rather than the usual "Ruh roh. Don't do that." (It was like landing on "Go to Jail" in Monopoly. Wop wop.) I've been eating a little less healthily lately, for whatever reason (mostly exhaustion and laziness), but always with a piece of fruit or yogurt or glass of milk, so I'm clearly still in the game. But, when I went shopping for my usual large container of Chobani at Hannaford the other day, my frustration grew even further - they had done away with my strawberry. Consider my cheese MOVED. Don't move a pregnant lady's cheese.

Out of spite and a bad mood (and presumably to prove a whom, I have no idea ;-)), I purchased one of the over-priced regular-sized Chobanis and a 4-pack of Stonyfield Farm's Organic Probiotic Strawberry Yogurt. A sudden buyer's remorse swirled in my head - "Wait. Those probiotic thingies are alive. Am I allowed to have this?" Clearly, I can, and I look forward to seeing if it helps any of the stomach "issues" I've been having since becoming pregnant - and have even read that doctors have advised that kids who may be a little "off" in that area should eat the stuff. Neat! Putting that in my back pocket for now.

- Not sure if it's hormones or just environmental/exterior factors, but I've been a tad bummed lately. Trying to control it, since I'd rather send nothing but positive vibes to the little one, but it's been a challenge. Working on it. (See the bottom bullet to find out how I'm working on it. ;-))

- I couldn't be happier that the weekend is upon us (and that a week-long vacation starts a week from today). The pregnancy exhaustion has hit me again, and there's just so much we'd like to get done...but I wish just a little that I could accomplish those tasks without it taking the wind out of my sails completely. It can be tough to take it all in stride, but I wish I could. Trying! And hoping that a couple of the "sit in sweats and use the computer" assignments on my to-do list can get accomplished, at least. ;-)

- Apparently, the baby can officially hear what's happening in the outside world. If this is the case, he/she has been learning how to politely say "no thank you" (or "our budget was cut...") to a kazillion book vendors on the phone today. I'm sure this talent will serve him/her well one day.

- I can't wait to create a "mood board" to post about the nursery. I'd like to share more about our home goings-on (since, hey, most of the blogs I love and one of my new, favorite distractions is design, DIY and purdy stuff) - plus, it's fun to see what folks think. When they're nice. *wink* We've already got two of the colors down (plus white and wood - do those count as colors? *double wink*) and I just have to nail down the third. Hint: It's yellow...just not sure whether it's a softer, buttery yellow or a fun, bright yellow. And, yes, there will be a fourth color -- after the little nugget arrives on good ol' Planet Earth.

- Oh, yes, I finally touched base with the Universal Yoga Center in New Hartford about some prenatal yoga classes. (Sarah, are you proud?!?!) I'm also grabbing a prenatal yoga DVD to see how I feel about it. Either way, feeling proactive about my health and the baby's well-being (and forcing myself to get off of my butt and DO something for myself) has to be a good thing. ;-) My doctors have asked if I've been exercising, and my "are you kidding? Does laundry count?" response doesn't seem valid anymore.

So, those are the random thoughts that have been bopping around my head. Oh, and that I've GOTTA call Shauna to chat about cloth diapers, making laundry detergent, and even finances when my energy finds me again. :-) Feel free to share any random thoughts you've been having lately - or comment on how silly mine are!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Just thought I'd check in with my financial progress for 2012. In my mind, every little step is progress, even though I haven't made my "major" changes yet. My first goal was to observe my monthly spending for January. Well, I did it! (Man, it was tough. You'd think jotting everything you spend down would be kind of...well, child's play. Not so much.)

Firstly, are we impressed by that pie chart, or what? What can I say - I loves me some pie. I've just gotta figure out how to make it look less distorted, but one challenge at a time. ;-)

I was surprised by several things - some good, some bad. Otherwise, and generally speaking, there were some purchases that were made that I wouldn't call "monthly" (more like once in a lifetime...or once every ten years - like an ottoman purchase), but I seem to  have some sort of purchase as such every few months or so, so I included it in the chart. There are other areas that, some months, get more cash put towards it (such as the "Pets" category) - but not this month. Then there are the stationary ones - such as the Visa bill, which never gets added to and always gets paid automatically every single month. The "can always depend on you" bills that will be AWESOME to finally pay off.

What shocked me most, though, was the clothes/home goods/gifts chunk. I don't BUY clothes that much - I just got a few maternity items. So, much of this was actually purchased for home projects from Lowe's (and that $179 ottoman from Target didn't help, either). Secondly, while it doesn't LOOK like much, our eating out is crazier than I expected. It really makes me think...and think...and think...until I will inevitably change, change, change. :-)

My groceries are mad crazy, too, but I already knew that. I've already set a new goal for myself to get it down to a) a twice-a-month shopping trip, b) for a certain set price (ie such-and-such amount for the month, divided by two), and c) in cash. Let's just call it getting closer to living simply on cash. Technically, I do that now, but I don't consider a debit card technically "cash". It's still plastic, and it's still a co-dependent tool towards self-ignorance. There were years that I shunned owning, what happened?! So, anyhoo, it definitely does makes me go through the "I'd like to get that, but..." thought process on pretty much every purchase. Oh, and I'm going to try to go back to an Aldi/Hannaford symbiosis - what one can't get me healthily and cheaply (ie Aldi's bananas or all-natural juice or awesomely delicious, cheap hummus) the other will provide. Spending $20 in one place and $60 in the other is fine, especially with how much $20 gets you!

Oh, and I figure this will help provide an economic stability when looking at the grocery budget +1. I'd like to keep the budget at the same amount, actually - totally crazy? Maybe. I'll adjust as needed, of course. No amount of pride or strictness to self-induced life rules would keep our kid from gaining proper nutrition. You can't complain with TRYING out a budget, though.

Some surprising "good" pieces of the pie? My "entertainment/phone" (really just my Verizon and Time Warner bills) amount is tinier, by comparison, than I expected it to be. I guess that whole going cable-free thing is workin' for me. Oh, and the avoidance of purchasing a smartphone, let alone any phone with a data plan. We're not proud...although, in this case, we totally are.

Cash withdrawals were actually, again, relatively small. That may be shifting, especially when I'll be using the money to purchase other pieces of the pie (groceries, etc). And, come to think of it, the cash advances went towards certain pieness, as well, so it probably shouldn't even count. But it does, and I'm pretty happy with it. Always like to have some cash in the ol' wallet. You never know.

So, there it is - a pretty disjointed (but what blog post isn't?) public display of...well, pie. What's next? I'm trying to analyze what parts of the pie are necessary (car, mortgage, etc) and what can be shaved further (groceries a tad, home stuff definitely, etc). And that's where I'll leave ya.

Any random budget suggestions that you think we all should know? What works for you? Do tell!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Parisian Parenting

Let me start by saying that I haven't been too excited about reading parenting books. Even the pregnancy books, while at times enlightening and highly educational (I do need to know this stuff, after all...apparently *wink*), haven't gotten me excited. In all honesty, the only thing that gets me REALLY excited is the growing belly (although clothes are the devil lately), the occasional "knock-knock" baby's giving me (yes, I know you're there!), and the private conversations I get to have with my husband about everything. Oh, and the thoughts of how to decorate the nursery - those are pretty fun, too.

But, when I saw that this story was going to be on "The Today Show" this morning, I immediately said, "Ohhhh, I hope they post a link for that on Facebook so I can see it!" I adore that Dave watched it, and texted me the title of the book that it was based on. I asked him what he thought about it all (I had been a bit of a skeptic when I heard it, assuming they'd skew it in a Tiger Mom direction), and he said that it "sounded really good". Wow, a glowing recommendation...about a parenting book...from my man. How could I NOT get a tad excited?

Then, I watched the link (which, side note, I Googled). While the article accompanying the video at first admonishes the idea that one culture shouldn't blatantly state that it's better at anything (ironic, being Americans), but goes on to recognize that the author writes in a humorous, thoughtful manner (and apparently from an American perspective - being an American in France). Whew, good to know.

                                                   Here's the video link. Give it a try. :-)

So, I've put the book (entitled Bringing Up Bebe - accent on the "e"s) into my Amazon Baby Wishlist (soon to be my Amazon Baby Registry), although I'm so excited to read it, I may have to purchase it as my "first baby item". That's right, we technically haven't purchased any clothes, books, ANYTHING (other than stuff for the nursery, but I see that more as organization - not fun stuff) for the baby since finding out. I just haven't found the perfect "first onesie". Plus, we've already been getting awesome hand-me-downs (including my sister's favorite pregnancy book, which is where I'm getting all my "knowledge" on the ins-and-outs of what's happening and what will happen), so there's no point in splurging. Not quite yet. Not if we're squeezing pennies. (That, and we don't want stuff for stuff's sake.)

It's not that we're down on American parenting. Heck, it's what WE had, and we're (pretty) well-adjusted and (publicly) respectful members of society. But, we're open to alternate ideas on the subject - anything that may give kids in a 21st century environment greater sensitivity and awareness, and which may make parenting a more connected, less co-dependent situation. After seeing countless American children in my everyday job over the past several years, I've seen some wonderful behavior...but I've seen absolutely selfish, demanding, relentless behavior. And, I hate to say it, but it's on the rise. It's a challenge when trying to teach independent use of the library for future success as young adults and adults, I'll tell ya that.

So, I'll be sure to let you know how the book is when I've finally received and read it. Heck, that may not be until a month before the baby comes. I foresee that it'll be hard to put it down for the pregnancy books.

What do YOU think? Are things just fine the way we handle parenting in America? Or, is it right to look for other methods elsewhere? Do tell.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bi-Polar Design

If there happens to be any individuals still in existence that attended HCCC with me (*gasp* over a decade ago), and happened to take our awesome public speaking class, they'll see that blog title and mentally jump to a speech I made. See, I was diagnosed as being bi-polar at the time, so had done a lot of research to understand it better. I felt that others also needed to understand its stigmas and misinformation. Strangely enough, since then I have discovered that I was simply experiencing good ol'-fashioned depression. I digress...

Let's take a quick field trip, shall we? Those were always fun -- until someone got sick on the bus. Luckily, this is a virtual field trip, so no nausea goin' on, unless you're preggers like me.

First, check out this House Tour at Making It Lovely. I'm not an avid reader of MIL, probably because I gravitate towards bloggers that focus, sure, on incredible design, but that also...well, have lots of flaws. The glossy, magazine-like inspirational blogs are awesome (don't get me wrong!), but they're not daily reading for me. I suppose I prefer reading stories, and seeing progress, and knowing that mistakes and wrong turns were made before reaching a gorgeous final product. In  short, the glossy ones take my self esteem down a few pegs. I need all the SE I can get. (Maybe I just need to read back further on this blog and I'll find their warts. Hey, I WANT to be a fan!)

(If you don't want to come *cough cough, spoil sport, cough*, here are a few pictures to help with the visual. These by no means belong to me; I have linked the sources! Honestly, there's much better eye candy at the links provided in my text.)


Anyhoo, after checking out MIL's house tour, well, I actually drooled and said "Ahhh!" out loud. Sure, they're not done with their space yet, either, but the design and inspiration that's there is insane. I see it as bold, gutsy, colorful, modern-yet-vintage (hello, mid-century furniture!), patterned, and jealousy-invoking. It actually reminds me a bit of our friend B+B's space, which always leaves me feeling inspired...and incredibly bland, myself. I adore this space and think, "If I asserted myself and got over my design bipolarity, I could do that. Possibly."

Secondly, I shall drive the yellow bus over to Layla and Kevin's space over at The Lettered Cottage. *sigh* This is clearly a different space. It's so different, it's on another planet. Y'know, if Neptune consisted of nothing but light, bright, vintage charm. This is what inspired me to purchase a white slipcover for our living room couch. No matter your style, you've gotta admit that it's gorgeous.

The third "visit" is to House*Tweaking. It's the closest style to my house's current wardrobe - well, kind of. I think that the earthiness and eclectic vibe is the direction in which my little design vehicle has been steadily driving. Some of the rooms are comparable to a few of ours; others are GORGEOUS and mine can't touch 'em. Strangely, though, when I look at their spaces, I think of the concept of wabi-sabi, which I'm interested in incorporating in all aspects of our life here. It's definitely a "make do with what you have" method, but with lots of style thrown in. Good to know they're compatible, at least.

(Ohhh, this is lovely!!!)

Aren't they all so different?!?!

It's difficult to be in love with such varying design styles (there are tons more I won't mention here) - can you see why it feels like a fit of bi-polar (if not simply multiple personality disorder - apologies to any of my mentally-challenged rights advocates buddies in the audience)? How to make it all fit together?

I suppose it's a wonderful thing that one's style (clearly I put a lot of stake into style; others, notsamuch, which is cool - but I do feel that it's a reflection of one's inner self, and what better way to introduce visitors to your home to yourself than by saying "this is me!" with awesome curtains?) can change and transition through life as humans tend to naturally. While the inspiration that I find often leads me down the jealousy path, I'd like to *attempt* to focus on the positive direction on which it can lead me - "oh, I like that, how can I make that 'my own'?" Especially on a budget.

It's always a challenge. It's an internal struggle, but it's also an external one - if I'm changing my mind or flip-flopping on ideas all the time, how can I expect the hubs to even follow along let alone stay on board? And, honestly, it's hard to discuss design with a guy. It just is.

So, for now, I'll make my mood boards to see what direction life may take and see what comes of it. Thanks for coming along on this little field trip - I feel better. :-)

Oh, pardon me! Where are my manners? Do you have a favorite? Or a style that you only wish you could attain? Do share! I love hearing what inspires others.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Post-Pregnancy Bucket List

I'm lucky. SUPER lucky. (That's even more than "uber", in case you didn't know.) I got pregnant easily -- almost too easily, I know I'll be jinxed in the future. Things are going incredibly smoothly. The only nausea I get anymore is something I'd deal with normally, thanks to a healthy dose of GIRD in my life. We keep hearing the heartbeat, and get to see the occasional wave (and McCoy legs and crazy well-developed spine...and possibly Daddy's nose), which, some days, I worry about. I don't FEEL very, AM I STILL?!?! It's enough to drive a woman mad. So, yeah. Things are good.

While being so lucky, I'm also inclined to feel...mmm...a tad...left out. There is a lot of stuff preggers ladies are told that they can't or shouldn't do. I'm pretty strict about most of it. Even the crazy "I never heard that" stuff, like avoid pineapples (and I believe mangoes and coconut, but pineapples are much more a part of my regular diet). Seriously, my poor mother cut up an entire pineapple for me to snack on and I couldn't!

So, without further ado, I shall indulge in my totally well-meaning, in no way whiny bitch-fest...(Warning: Numerous food items mentioned are neither all-natural nor organic...nor healthy. It is what it is, I make no excuses other than -- the baby did it!)

- A bologna sandwich...on white or wheat (SOFT, please)...with yellow mustard. May or may not contain American cheese. I've wanted this as long as I've been pregnant. I'm hoping someone will meet me at the hospital with one. I'd do unspeakable things for one.

- Wine. More specifically, New York State wine. It's sweeter (and some would say suckier) than the "good stuff". Oh, and Fly Creek Cider Mill's special flavored wines. Yep.

- On the boozy subject (and not to sound like a complete lush), a) amaretto sour, b) strawberry daiquiri, c) anything else involving rum and fruit.

- Why do I want to go skiing so badly?

- The same goes for hiking.

- And canoeing.

- And camping, in general. While I adore camping (be it the "don't bathe for days and live in a tent" kind or the "rent a heated facility on the lake" kind), Dave's not a huge fan and it's just not something we've contemplated for vacationing. Well, I've dreamed about it, but particularly one day when we'd have kids (and nieces and nephews) along for the fun.

- Sleep any gosh darn way I please. Strangely enough, it's not just that I "shouldn't" sleep on my belly or back, but this whole "sleep on the left side, it's best for the baby" thing just FEELS better. Of course, I'm a toss-'n-turner, so I can't break that habit...and while the belly isn't very big yet, it's definitely a maneuver to shiiiiiift all the weight from one side to another. It'll only get worse, and the cats seem to know when the "harass Mommy and Daddy" hour (ie feed us, 5am MUST be breakfast time, right?) is. Ah, I suppose that's all training for the baby, too.

- Will I EVER get a normal tinkle schedule again?! That is all.

- Paintin' stuff...carryin' stuff...generally being that "I can get it" type of lady. Given the chilly (albeit mild) winter weather we've got, I don't feel comfortable painting stuff inside. I'll be using some low-VOC primer and paint for a project we're undertaking this weekend, but y'know. I couldn't even help the hubs with his Drylok project in the basement. And, I know my mother was painting stuff pretty much up until I was born, but who says I want the kid turning out like me? ;-)

- Oh, yeah. Pineapple. (Mmm. I foresee living on fruit salad when we bring the newborn home. With the occasional bologna sandwich. ;-D)

I'm sure there's a kazillion more things that I'm missing, but in case you didn't know, I'm pregnant, and pregnancy brain is definitely not a myth. My normally forgetful non-pregnant brain is bad enough.

Is there anything you're itching to do, eat, or experience? Do tell!