Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baby, Baby...

Okay, before I start chatting about random baby stuff, I've just gotta share a quick gripe: I'm not lovin' the new Blogger setup.

Okay. Enough of that. Maybe I'll get used to it. Or maybe I'll get inspired to switch the whole shebang over to Wordpress. Either way, you don't need to hear me whine about it.

Since some general feedback to my second blogiversary questions tells me that folks WANT to hear about my soon-to-be-baby (I know, it's a baby now...but it's not a baby I need to "feed" or "change" or care for in any other way than simply eating and "being" wisely). I hate to disappoint, but I'm still not sure how much I'll be sharing. Privacy for myself is one thing. Privacy for a baby (a much more desirable product, stealing-wise...if you catch my drift) is another.

But, my experiences? Sure. We're uncharacteristically private (well, I am...Dave's USUALLY a private person) when it comes to baby stuff, but you'll probably be all up in mah biznizz when the event actually happens (ie I'll probably share the birth story, if I'm able to REMEMBER it). Otherwise...names? Nope, secret. Can you put your hands on the belly? Heck no. (I will remove your hands. Don't be offended. I'm just not cool with it.) Girl or boy? We're not even finding out, so NO there's not a nurse you can call to find out. (I kid you not. It was a baby pool-related question, but still. Wow.)

By no means are we being private to be meanies. It's just a side perk. Ha! Totally kidding. We really don't ever intend rudeness towards anyone, baby-related or not. But, as it is, we're new to this bumpy (at times very exciting!) ride, ourselves, and need to get our footing without hearing a million opinions or suggestions. And, in all honesty, has anyone noticed how possessive, nosy, and inappropriate people can get when a baby's involved?? They'll do anything to see, feel, hear, smell, or kiss your child, no matter how close you are with them. They want to get the best present. They want to be the favorite. They offer to babysit, but you're pretty sure they'd just sit around staring at it rather than changing its diaper or feeding it. (And, honestly, if we don't trust ya with our cats...odds are....) Seriously, folks get baby caaraaaazeeeyyy, and it makes me uneasy.

So, anyhoo, here are some recent thoughts I've had in the midst of mad rushes of pregnancy hormones...

Cloth diapers are awesome...but terrifying. I'm not freaking out over much these days (no, really, I'm not), but the diapering situation...yep. I thought I'd finally landed on getting BumGenius All-in-Ones (having finally seen them IN REAL LIFE!), but after seeing Charlie Bananas on, I'm up in the air. My mind is currently saying "get some of both and see how it goes" but it's not like you can return these puppies. Not sure why this all matters so much, but it does to me. *shrugs* In the end, I know I'll find what does work for me and I'll find myself laughing at how ridiculous I sounded. Y'know. When I'm too busy chasing around a toddler, or getting into a fight with a teenager to worry about what's on their hiney. Heh. But, clearly I'm horrible at making decisions. And I married a guy who's pretty much the same way.

I'm trying to remain as positive and calm as possible about my boobies (and the baby's ability to USE them properly). I've read some real nightmare stories, stupidly, about months of ever-two-hour feedings with kids who won't bottle feed pumped milk and leave bleeding nipples. It's as terrifying as, well, cloth diapers can be. I have almost no one in my life with any nursing experience (thanks, in advance, to those who do!!!), other than "it wasn't done in our time" and "it didn't work for me". I guess, ultimately, I'm staying positive and sending positive vibes to the little kicker in there - for once in my life maintaining an optimistic attitude about something (!) - in hopes that I may be one of the success stories I hear so little about. I dunno. I've got gusto. And I MUST have these none-too-small ta-tas for a reason. Maybe it'll work. 

We've got our first parenting/birthing class tonight. Sorry, I'm not sure what to call it - which AM I learning how to do, again?? Regardless, I must admit that I've got a bit of trepidation over it all. I've been quite cool and collected thus far (I'd say "laid back" to the extreme, and probably to the chagrin of any grandmas in the audience) and figure that I won't worry 'til I have to. This is where that whole "knowledge is a beeotch" thing comes into play. Claiming ignorance won't work anymore. But, at least the classes will help with the rare-but-vivid dreams of unknown child labor incidents. Right?? AND, perhaps it'll inspire us to have more discussions (we've been doing better, though) and actually decide on some possible names. Perhaps.By the way, the current situation with l'enfant is the fact that it's currently breech. (Oh, and I was low on iron, so I'm on supplements for that...but that's no big.) From what I've heard and read, anywhere from 1/5 to 1/3 of babies are in this position at this stage in the game. So let's not worry, m'kay? On the bright side, not much "kick you in the ribs, Mama!" moments, ha! My favorite part about the whole breech thing is the doctor's office visit that accompanied it: Dave, visibly worried, asked what this MEANS. The doctor, visibly cool-as-a-cucumber said, "It means that if it doesn't flip over, she'll be having a C-section," nonchalantly. I guess the C-section thing worries me more than anything else (drugs, I'm 50/50 on and would be okay if I have 'em...a C-section, however....) and the ease with which my doc said this freaked me out a bit. Luckily, I'm not using "just" one doctor (it's a group of 'em) and I ultimately trust them all...but, yeah. Gonna have to advocate when the time comes.

Oh, and symptoms? Other than occasionally feeling rundown and getting unexpected heartburn (I'm usually used to it and, non-pregnant, take meds for it...but yeah....), my left ear gets WICKED loud. Like a speaker's going out, but instead gets uber loud. I can hear my heartbeat at times, or myself eating (I'm disgusting...I can't stand that sound), or myself trying desperately hard to focus on reading a book to students (of course, it's muffled so I also can't hear questions, etc). It's nuts! And, I looked it up to see if it was, in fact, a pregnancy symptom and, sure enough, it can happen when fluid's building up like crazy (apparently it's not hitting my ankles much or any other place...but my frickin' EAR CANAL?!). Can't wait for it to stop. There are days when I have zero rest from it. And those nights are usually the ones I need the pillow between my knees and ankles to stop my back from hurting. ;-) But, seriously, things have been so easy thus far, I feel guilty complaining about anything.

And that's really all there is to tell about Baby D. and Mommy D. and Daddy D. at the moment. Good times, good times.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meatless Monday Update

Howdy, all. It's a drizzly, cold Monday here in our neck of the woods. I suppose it's what one should expect from a late April day, but we've had such crazy weather patterns lately, we've had at least one day in the 80s...and folks just west of us are getting snow. So, yeah. It's one of those days where everyone you talk to seems to need a nap as much as you do.

So, I thought it'd be a good night to check in about our meatless adventures. Of course, what am I making tonight? Pasta. Sooooo boring, Meg! Sheeshis. The first "Meatless Monday" post I ever wrote included a pasta night, too. Honestly, though, I haven't had nearly as many pasta days since getting pregnant (acidic tomatoes = heartburn like crazy), so I'm actually looking forward to it.

I haven't written a whole lot about our meatless meals, but I assure you, we've done an awesome job of having at least one "main" vegetarian meal per week. In all honesty, I'm not sure what our exact batting average is, but I'd say it's an average of at least two dinners per week (and almost all breakfasts...and lots of lunches - hubs is better at this, though; his new nickname should really be Mr. Salad). And we don't always observe Meatless Mondays. We ebb and flow like the tide; ya never know when dinner will be meatless, and it's to the point where it's a thought-free process.

Today, however, is a tad different. I'm cooking with tofu for the first time, well, ever. In usual Meg fashion, I'm combining a couple of recipes I found online (here and here) and throwing in my own twist. I pretty much used what I had on hand, sauteing in EVOO some onion, broccoli, carrots, sweet pepper, summer squash, garlic, mushrooms, extra firm tofu with dashes of Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and S&P (a tiny bit of salt - we're watching Dave's intake). Once these flavors had melded together, I actually took some out for some light lunches. At this point, I cooked some mushrooms into it (Dave doesn't like 'em), threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar, cooked it down, and added jarred sauce.

Fast forward a few minutes and I was eating my rotini (was hoping for penne, but we appeared to be out) with veggies and tofu in sauce...sprinkled with some fresh parmesan, dipped with local Italian bread from Heidelberg bakery, and alongside some Byrne Dairy glass jar milk. Just had to be thorough. ;-) We'll have this as a lunch (or dinner, again) option during the week, too.

Overall, it's tasty. I'm sure you could do the meal with any veggies you have on hand - and way fewer than me, but I wanted to use some up (and since I'm not in the mood for a salad, I figured I needed to get the healthy stuff somehow).

Oh, and we're still definitely what I'd call flexitarian. Recently, we decided that we'd also like to incorporate more Mediterranean cooking to our diets, mostly to provide Dave with the health benefits. But, honestly, we were eating a lot of what "they" eat, anyway. Very rarely do we eat red meat (and when we do, it's locally grass-fed or at the very least hormone-free), Dave's a huge seafood lover (usually grilled, occasionally with pasta or rice), and we've tried our best to eat more fruits, veg, and whole grains. The cool thing about Mediterranean is the idea of how many different cultures actually live ON the Mediterranean Sea. You've got French, Greek, Italian, Spanish...TONS (and don't get me started on the Eastern side, but we're not that adventurous). Think of the different flavors we can play with! ;-)

So, what about you guys? Any vegetarian meals that you enjoy - even ones that you didn't realize were vegetarian? Do tell!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Woohoo! Happy Blogiversary to...well, me! Wow, how conceited. Sorry, I'm just a tad excited about the fact that I've been over-sharing here at MAO for two years. I've even reached my 200th post! (If you like to play mathematician, that's approximately 100 posts per year. Hooray for easy math! And I really should double those numbers.)

Man, a lot's happened in those two years! We got married (a better description of our wedding festivities can be found here)...our family grew...then grew s'more...then we got outnumbered (okay, it's starting to get out of hand now)...and, finally, it's baby time. And think of what's to come - I'm turning the big three-oh (if I don't write the numbers, it's not real, hee hee) very soon, and riiiiiiiight after school lets out, we should be welcoming our new bundle of joy. HUGE life changes. And you'd better believe that I'll be writing about it all left 'n right.

There's lots that I could do to "celebrate" the blog's birthday. Look at the numbers of readers and squeal over the fact that folks from all over the world have stopped by (seriously, places that I couldn't pin on a map). Bake an organic cake and blow out a couple of candles. Do a happy dance with the cats...although Jasper would probably be the only one who'd be down with that. Drool over the fact that I've had over 9,000 page views...over 600 in the past month (it's the little things that impress me).

But I'd rather just take a moment to shout a huuuuuge "THANK YOU!" from the bottom of my heart, just for reading my musings, even when I'm in grouchy mode or don't finish a bathroom redo for countless months or get on my all-natural high horse. I adore the fact that folks read, regardless. It means the world to know that I'm not just writing for myself - although I'd still enjoy it. I do loves me some writin'...or else I wouldn't be doing it, of course!

So, beyond saying "thank you," I want to ensure that I keep any readers and potential followers happy. That being said, I'd appreciate some Blogiversary Back-Talk. Call it constructive criticism. Call it a virtual suggestion box. Call it "what would I rather read" feedback. Whatever we call it, I call it a huge help as to determining the direction of the blog, and it helps provide some focus.

Here are some suggestions of questions/ideas that you can respond to in the reply section. If Blogger is being naughty (as it often is!) and won't let you reply, feel free to leave a message or comment on my Facebook page. Whatever way that you choose to get information to me (I'll keep an eye out for homing pigeons), it's greatly appreciated!

- What are your favorite parts about the blog? Your least favorite?
- What topics do you look forward to reading about?
- How do you feel about the design, organization, and appearance of the blog?

- Would you read more if I posted more?
- How do you feel about baby stuff? How much/little will you want to hear when they make their arrival? (Same goes for cats...too much? Too little? Just right?)
- Do you just read for the amusement factor, or are you interested in green living or DIY (which I'm hoping to do more of) or what?

In the past, I've heard "Just keep doing what you're doing", which I appreciate hearing...but with a tad more information, I can streamline what I write and remind myself of reader interests. It matters! And it's appreciated, lots!! So please, over-share as much as I over-share.

(On a side note, this week is my mom's niece's birthday......and next week is mine! :-D So, my blog's in pretty good company. Fine ladies, fine ladies.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Operation Closet: Closed

Over my recent spring break, I performed what I can only describe as (in my skewed little world) a miracle.

It all started with a closet that was brimming with, well, crap. Coats, scarves, gloves, hats...and the occasional piece of randomness (on the bright side: Now we don't have to decide which towel hooks to buy for the bathroom! How long ago did I BUY those??). Let's just say that, like many doors in our home, we couldn't close it. And being in the middle of our most-used living space, it was downright embarrassing.

The goal for this closet was to 1) purge our winter coats and maybe even make some room for *gasp* visitors to hang their jackets, 2) organize the top shelf area, 3) make some room for my everyday use bags, and 4) be able to see the floor.

While pulling out all the items in the closet, I found some wooden hangers that we got for Christmas (luckily it was this past Christmas, not last year or any other embarrassing year) to add some consistency and get rid of the ol' plastic ones. Isn't it strange how the worst part of organization is the fact that you have to completely destroy an area first? You can't really clean a closet (or pantry or cabinet or...) without pulling everything out. So, long story short - that's what I did.

Here's a fun little "before and after" for you.

So, what's the miracle? Not only can I see the floor AND close the door, but we can now toss our unsightly shoes there before company comes. They'll never know! Tricky, tricky! (All the rest of our shoes go into the nearby ottoman...which makes me sick to think about because one of our naughty scratching boys who shall remain nameless has created his own artwork of pinhole scratches upon said faux leather ottoman. *sigh* It still fits its purpose and folks wouldn't know unless I made them run their hand across it, but it's the principle of the thing!) So, now our guests not only have space for their shoes to go near the door, but there's room in the closet for their bits 'n pieces. In other words, we can have folks over! Seriously. Who's coming? (Too bad we're booked solid the next several weeks, LOL.)

It's closed!!!
One other tidbit of trickiness to share: my favorite "work bag slash purse" (see in the last picture above; I retired the green for the mustard a little while ago) can now be treated with some respect when I get home, thanks to am M3 plastic hook or two. Although, admittedly, it still gets tossed near the ottoman 50% of the time. Ya win some, ya lose some. Either way, this is definitely a "Dude, Get On That Already" that's been awaiting my attention for years. *bows* Finally!

Oh, and while I was at it, I replaced an outdoorsy wreath (featuring those fake red "buds" that I used to like so much) with a bit of summery freshness. This is our "dump everything" spot, so it doesn't always look so tidy, but the ceremonious, aggressive deletion of red from the living room is definitely happening! You can also see my attempt at daily organization with our "mail basket" and ottoman. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe

Last week, I finally finished reading Bringing Up Bebe, the book I was excited to blog about here. (Actually, that's a record for me as far as how fast I've finished a book for my own reading pleasure, lately. A sad fact for a librarian.) And, y'know what? Overall, I'm a fan of the book.

Firstly, I tend to be a fan of progressive writing. That's my own random terminology, and I don't mean "ahead of its time" writing (although a clever concept always seems to hook me right into a book: American in Paris raising kids, living a year taking the Bible literally, reading the entire encyclopedia and seeing if one really learns a darn thing, etc). There may be a clearer or more professional way to put it, but a piece that shows the growth or change that takes place in a person over time (especially when there are learning processes happening) is what I mean by "progressive writing." Sure, overall people can say "This book is about an American woman living in France, learning how to raise her children in a more Parisian way," but that doesn't touch the heart of it. Regardless, the manner in which Pamela Druckerman wrote BUB drew me in as much as the facts and research that she undertook to create it.

That being said, we're brought on a linear journey - from before American Pamela even met her British-born husband, Simon (who is essentially a worldwide resident, quite well adapted to living in and being a part of various cultures) to their foray into parenthood with not one but eventually three children. From pregnancy and labor (it's definitely not a 2-3 day stay in the hospital, and while breast feeding isn't frowned upon, it's not altogether encouraged) to those bumpy first months (when did YOUR child first start "doing his nights"? Between 2-3 months old is the norm in France. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!) to raising an independent, *polite* child while maintaining one's own identity as a human being, the cultural observations are absolutely fascinating. I found myself bubbling with "I want to try that!!" enthusiasm at points, yet apprehensive at others. And, y'know what? The author was in the same boat, so it's definitely not a handbook for "how to raise French kids." And it's not necessarily a parenting book. It's as much a book about thinking outside the box and actually *considering* what works and what doesn't for your family, rather than following the other fishies onto a path of smothering, over-scheduling, and aggrandizing children (such as much of America currently does).

In general, I would say that the motivational "I like how the French do it" moments definitely outweighed the "whoa, wait a minute, seriously?" ones. For example, meals. The book discusses, in depth, the diets of French children and mealtime expectations, such as the diversity of meal planning within every single daycare (many of which are government-run), along with courses. By a certain age, children are completely comfortable sitting at a table, sharing along with the food and conversation (they have learned not to interrupt since no adult will allow it...hmm, imagine; I had an issue with this when I was a child, so the similarity between how the French and my mom and siblings approached this stuck me like a knife...yet, I don't interrupt). Oh, and there are no "special" mealtimes for kids. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner. No appeasement with food, or snacks in the midst of playtime, or even juice while watching TV. Water, if wanted, but even that's usually reserved for the meal. But, those meals are full of incredibly healthy, diverse foods (there's that word again - I only mean that there's generally a full meal including lots of veggies, and often a cheese course). Oh, and there needn't be a fuss over whether they finish everything (another "leads to obesity" American trend). They'll also learn that if they don't eat what's offered now, they'll have to wait for the next meal - nothing special will be made.

What about playtime? I learned as much about Americans as I did French when it came to this bit. Apparently, many (not all) Americans have a tendency to play alongside their children, often stating every little thing they're doing ("Now we're playing with a red ball. See the red ball? It's round. We can roll it.")...and sometimes bilingually. To them, every moment is a learning experience that they must fill in order to attain some higher IQ or future opportunity. It's almost like an anxiety that gets transferred, and can be associated with the later "did my kid get into the best preschool" mindsets and leads to over-scheduling (the examples listed in the book are astounding, of real American parents who have signed up 3-year-olds for three different language tutors and a kazillion other activities or have found their way onto sports teams that expect parents to be more actively involved than the kids).  Yes, every moment is a learning experience, but if kids don't have mental down time or an opportunity to "learn by doing" (what my college once crammed into my head as the "latest" in education - the constructivist approach), particularly independently, a clinging relationship is developed and a society full of needy, oftentimes misbehaved children emerge. When parents put so much pressure onto their children and give them ALL the importance in the world (yes, children are loved in France, but are also taught that they're no more special than anyone else), the "I'm so great," spoiled attitude becomes a problem.

Going hand-in-hand with these "too hands-on parents" is the idea that French parents don't see themselves as just parents. They maintain their own identities. When one visits a French playground, one will see mothers casually chatting with one another. No one is chasing after children (unless they're an expatriate from another country) or overseeing what type of game the kids will be playing. If you're unable to keep your child in the sandbox without running off, they see this as a parenting issue - you're not firm enough with them. It's not a selfish thing (kids play while you blindly sit and socialize); it's remembering that mommies need time to be themselves, too. Besides, the kids need to learn socialization with the other children, too. It's frowned upon if children tattle or if parents stick their noses into social issues, be them at school or the playground. At the same time, parents actually trust what teachers do and don't expect them to play "police" to fighting kids. Pamela is concerned when she gets a report that her daughter is doing "fine" in school; she expects a complete rundown of behaviors and interactions, as do many Americans. All very eye-opening.

Of course, as is discussed in the book, it is ultimately easier to try French parenting techniques when one is, in fact, living in France. It's simply more accepted to do as those around you are. The general observation that arose from this reading, though, is as much "traditional" American as it is currently French; let kids be kids, but be sure that you're "in charge" and have taught them their place. They must be allowed to play together, to handle confrontation and situations themselves, and not be constantly coddled or followed by adults who are pushing their development (for whatever reason). Simultaneously, the words "please" and "thank you" (as well as "hello" and "goodbye" - just as important as the other two in France) must be imposed, and certain structures [particularly those involving eating and bedtime (although bedtime is a relative term; "parent time" is common, and children can "go to bed" but not go to sleep...seriously, it's interesting)] are expected. Ebb and flow. Organized chaos within set boundaries. Very thought-provoking.

I know that many American parents are up-in-arms about the book. Well, of course; anything that may seem to argue against your own methods is bound to tick you off. But you also have to read it to understand a) how it's actually written (not as a "how to manual" and b) it's not necessarily touting all French methods. The final chapter shows what Pamela has learned and made a part of her family's life, and what has kept her firmly planted in the land of stars and stripes. Even for folks who aren't parents, it's a wonderful writing on the juxtaposition between two very unique, wonderful cultures.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love for Paul Newman

Gotta love a guy named "Paul." Seriously, some of the greatest guys in history (or at least the 21st century) have been "Paul"Ps. Paul McCartney (arguably the best Beatle...clearly I'm biased after literally bumping into him in NYC a few years back). Paul Simon. Paul Newman. Seriously, it's a sad thing "Paul" is off our baby-naming list, but we've both gotta like the name. *shrugs*

We appreciate Paul Newman less for his acting skills (although I love those piercing blue eyes...and Cool Hand Luke? Love it. NOBODY can eat 50 eggs. Ha.) and more for the charity work his company, Newman's Own, still does, even after his death in 2008. Truthfully, what we appreciate the most is the fact that many of their products are all natural (and some even organic), so when I'm making my grocery buying decisions, I consider health (including a deep look at the ingredients and nutritional facts, when it's a prepared food - we try to keep it low-fat/low-cholesterol/low-sodium when possible) and value, but when a Paul Newman product costs a tad more, I may still opt for it.

For example, two of our always-have-on-hand food staples (y'know, for those nights when Mama just ain't up for cookin'...which can be often lately) are the Newman's Own brand. The first is his jarred tomato sauce. I know, I know, I could make my own and freeze it and blah dee blah blah...but when his organic marinara hits our taste buds just fine (mind you, I do kick it up a bit with my own "method"...which I've tried to teach Dave in the event that our kids get a taste for it and something ever happens to me...I'm not morbid, I'm Irish) and save me a buttload of time, I'm all in. The occasional coupon helps on the "value" front, too.

The other food staple that I like to keep in the fridge is one or two of the Paul Newman frozen pizzas. The pizzas are a traditional "frozen pizza-esque" thin crust, but the ingredients are thoughtful. The pepperoni is uncured and nitrate free (except that which occurs naturally), so I feel okay about eating some once in awhile during my pregnancy. While I'm itching to try their supreme, I know Dave's not a fan, so we pretty much stick with the four-cheese or pepperoni. I did recently pick up the buffalo chicken style since it's one of my man's favorite flavors. Update: We tried this last night. Dave loved it. Me...not s'much. There was some heat to it (which I'm not a huge fan of), but not a lot of flavor for my taste. Maybe this means I get to try "supreme" someday as payback. ;-) Just kidding; we try to keep things fair here, especially food-wise. But, yeah, if you're into buffalo chicken, you may like it.
Another awesome thing about the pizza? Once in awhile, you'll find a coupon on the back of the package - usually for ANY Newman's Own product (strangely, not pizzas, though). Dave usually looks for those boxes first. Gotta love a man who's into a bargain.

That being said, these ain't cheap. At least, at Hannaford, they're just shy of $6. We can occasionally get them with a coupon for close to $5. Honestly, I look at it this way - it's still cheaper than buying a pizza from a local pizza joint (and easier...and faster). Plus, knowing the charity factor involved, I feel better about the price, too.

So, if you haven't tried any Newman's Own stuff, go ahead! They try hard to keep the ingredients as-good-as-pre-packaged-food-can-be-for-you. Or, if you're not in the mood to try their stuff, just watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Either way...can't go wrong with a "Paul."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Time's A-Runnin' Out

My 30th birthday is coming up on the first of May. No, I'm not looking for presents (although, if anyone would like to shoot an iTunes or Lowe's gift card my way, I wouldn't object ;-D). I thought I'd check into my "30 Before 30" list to see how I've been doing. Come along, won't you?

1. Try a yoga class. Woohoo! This is the most successful (not to mention fulfilling; see why here) achievement off the list so far...although I skipped this past Friday, but sometimes time with a hubby needs to be a priority. Oh, and I'm thinking of adding a yoga DVD to one of my registries for some post-baby activity (I love that it's physical, mental, AND spiritual).
2. Start adding to savings. I've been adding a bit each month (sometimes $50, sometimes $200, but every little bit helps! Especially when I consider that I won't be working this summer), plus I have yet to utilize my overdraft in 2012. That, in itself, makes me feel better 'bout myself.
3. Organize the office. But it's STILL, admittedly, not done. D'oh. It looks lots better, though.
4. Go for a walk. FINALLY! After helping a bit at the theater last Saturday morning, I called the hubs to see if he'd like to take advantage of the gorgeous (albeit a tad windy!) day. It wasn't by any means a long walk, but we felt good about getting out and about. I'm hoping to become a "walker" when the baby comes. Oh, and of course Dave had to show me up by then going outside to do the first mowing and weed whacking of the year. Talk about a workout! 
5. Go antiquing. Yay! I did this, too!! A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I went for a cheap but delish breakfast at Ann St. Deli in Little Falls - which just HAPPENS to be quite close to our go-to antique center. We were able to get out without spending much - in fact, Dave bought a co-worker look-alike action figure, and I didn't get ANYTHING. I can't believe it. I'd like to have a SUCCESSFUL antiquing adventure, but it's good to just say that I crossed it off the list.
6. Get some more Etsy goodies posted. I'd be fine if this happened after my 30th. I'm hoping my nesting instinct helps me create too much nursery art; surplus = Etsy sale. ;-)
7. Organize the ol' blog. Some of this is done - have you noticed my "Archive" tab lately? I've got more to do, but it took a weekend just to organize those links...sooooo, let's call this baby DONE-ZO!
8. Get rid of 25% more of my wardrobe. Not sure if it's 25%, but lots is gone! I'm currently wearing maternity pants (or sweatpants when I know I'm not leaving the house - hello, spring break!), but still have some tops that are long enough to cover the bump. I'm in the midst of some spring cleaning, so I'll be organizing and purging a tad more. Isn't it weird that I still don't wear 100% of my clothing, even with the maternity clothes?? 
9. Organize/clean out my laptop (pictures & iTunes -- need room for the baby's music, after all). Eh, not s'much. Not yet. This is one of those "I can probably work on this during my ninth month of pregnancy" procrastinations.
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) Hmm. ALL this stuff probably won't be happening before May 1st, but we'll see if I can get some...or ANY of it accomplished. ;-)
11. Switch the living room from red accents to... As the Beatles would say, "It's getting better all the tiiiime." Just gotta work on ADDING some OTHER color. Boring right now.
12. At least organize the craziness that is The Basement Monster. This one's kind of reliant upon us finally picking out some cheap paint to do the walls. It's totally waiting on us. Sorry, Basement Monster!
13. Find someone to take the bed in order to change "guest room" into "nursery." As I said before, it sounds like we've achieved this! *crosses fingers* Now, to actually get the deed done!
14. Get a hairstyle. Hmm. Wonder if I want to go short or just medium-length layered. Idears?
15. Make some paper cranes (or other awesome origami art). I've got some ideas, but am currently working on a different mobile project...and I've found some art ideas to "recreate" - e.g. steal - to use in the nursery. I <3 Pinterest.
16. Do some painting...not in the home improvement way.
17. REDO. THE. BATHROOM. (And I MEAN it!) (I'm workin' on it!) And today is my continued spring cleaning endeavors, so hopefully I can work in there Thursday or Friday. It's tough to go gung-ho because I tend to overdo it, then need a break, lather - rinse - repeat.
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. Haven't been posting much, but I'd say I've had 50% more original pics. It's a work in progress. :-)
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?!) I'd say I've gained about 8 pounds so far. I'm definitely getting bigger, but not too big.
21. Make some DIY soap -- be it hand soap or laundry soap. I'm thinking of, in terms of simplicity, try to find a DIY diaper soap recipe that we can use; otherwise, I'll just try to keep it green (as we currently do). It's hard to find ingredients that are okay and don't cancel out the warranty on cloth dipes.
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. (Does a new restaurant, along with some great friends, count?)  
24. Plan a smaller, but manageable garden. Planting will have to occur well after May 1st. We also need to amend the soil in our two raised beds since they've become kitty potties for our beloved backyard cats. *sigh* 
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.) Working on it...still!
26. Set up Amazon Affiliate. Dude. I'm just happy that we finally set up our two registries!
27. Take a road trip. I foresee this happening in the next month or so... (This got pushed back another month.)
28. Find enough room to actually be able to have every piece of my wardrobe put away simultaneously. Then follow through. We're definitely "getting there" on this one...
29. Reupholster the wine chair and slipcover/paint the ottoman. I may work on this one after May 1st - it relies a lot on a) my energy level and b) the weather outside.
30. Pick up the house once a week. I'd say this is a "work in progress", but between the spring cleaning I'm doing today and some organizational techniques I'm working on, I'm hoping this will get easier. Remember? All about "easy"? That being said, if it doesn't get done weekly, we won't cry over it...will we?

Twelve outta thirty...hmm, not even half. Admittedly, a handful of these won't get done - but I'm happy to let some slide over to an "ongoing project" status. But, seriously, doesn't a list make everything better? Even when everything doesn't get done (again, let's not cry over it, m'kay? Life's too short), being able to check stuff off is invigorating. Speaking of which, I'd better get back to my spring cleaning list!  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kitty Pics

Why in the heck am I sifting through kitty pictures?

...other than the fact that these faces are the cutest thing in the world...

...for now. (Who am I kidding? These are our first children.)

Let's just say that I'm working on some one-of-a-kind nursery art. And we can't leave our "first babies" out of our "first baby's" space, now, can we?

I'm still working out which style of art we'll land on, but introducing our guys to the "little one" is just one more step in this crazy process. What sentimental item(s) or art do you surround yourself with everyday?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Black Thumb

I love green. It means so many things: eco-friendliness, newness, fresh living plants. It's my favorite color, and in fact it's my eye color. What's not to love about green? Well, for the plants I haven't had luck with, apparently lots.

When we moved into our house a few years ago, vegetation was the last thing on my mind. I was much more focused on the interior "let's make it ours" aspect of being a new homeowner. Don't get me wrong - I'm still concerned about our view around the joint. And, we've had two years of quasi-successful (our first year was definitely better) herb and vegetable growth. But, I'm dying to create an exterior space to be proud of - while keeping it, hopefully, relatively low-maintenance. Since, y'know, I'm all about making things easier (a new take on simplification) as life gets a tad more complicated around here.

Last summer, we said a sad goodbye to the honkin', troublesome, older-than-God tree that made it near impossible to grow much in the front border around our house. Some deep roots are still underground (and, at times, viewable at the surface), but we feel a lot safer when strong storms hit the area.

Let's just say that I'm pretty ignorant about all this stuff. I've discovered that we've got plenty of early-season bulb flowers (daffodils, tulips) that pop up this time of year, but the organization of it all is pretty haphazard and not attractive in the least (and half of them don't bloom - the biggest challenge here is the angle of the house; our east side gets an okay amount of sun (I'd say partial) while our west gets damn near nothin'). I've tried adding some annuals each year, getting rid of the hostas (after we had success with one and major failure with two others), putting in some ferns (also haven't done very well), and a couple of boxwoods and a hydrangea - which I'm clearly not advanced enough to master. *sigh*

So, while it seems that I can handle growing edibles, my green thumb ends there. I'm going to do some more research and find some blogspiration, and ask that anyone reading who may have a bright green thumb (I know some of you must!) for any low-maintenance plantings that work well in Upstate New York, feel free to blurt it out! The biggest challenge, ultimately, is the fact that we don't have much (or equal) sunshine, so it's difficult to keep things symmetrical. Here are some pictures from a) FOREVER ago and b) the best the space has ever looked (after I transplanted hostas, added solar lights and mulched).

The ivy below the windows on each side of the foundation has started causing some problems, so I've been working on digging it out for good over the past year - 'cuz goodness knows it keeps coming back. Some opinions that I need:

- Paint the foundation a deep tan (and the shutters glossy black)? The roof is hunter green and I hate it, but hey, it's a roof...and our front door is a bright, cheery red. The porch needs some paint to let it blend in more, but I've gotta have "the men" in the family take a look at its stability first.
- Red cedar or plain ol' chocolate brown mulch? Or none of the above?
- Ditch the stone border? We've got lots of brick floating around (that I'm considering Craigslisting) but I feel that it would probably also look kinda ghetto. So, just go "sans stone" or work with it?
- What plants have you had luck with, or do you think might work for this space? I'd like to add a few different levels for the eye to look at, but of course the ultimate goal is just to have a space that CAN grow. :-) I'm up for greenery like bushes or dwarf trees OR a variety of perennials. Any ideas would be great!

On a side note, another "just need the money first" project that I'm dying to take care of before we ever try to sell this place is having the driveway done (it's been decades), which would include amending our sidewalk situation. Seriously, if you look down the street (a very long street, at that), the only "break" in the sidewalk is where our driveway takes it over. Silliness! It drives me crazy. Plus, the unevenness of our driveway can't possibly be good for our cars. Every time a visitor comes, I feel ashamed that they have to pull into this crappy "whatchya think of me now?" first impression. So, clearly we won't be DIYing that undertaking - but, man, will I be a happy camper when it's done!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


With an impending blogiversary coming up here at MAO (yes, that's a real word), I get to thinking about the direction of my blog. I'm sure I'll get into that more when the time comes (April 22nd!), but for the time being, I can't help but think: What the heck AM I writing?

I enjoy blogging, of course, but when I've asked in the past what my readers would like me to do, I get one of those crickets chirping, glazed-eyed-students responses (believe me, I'm quite used to THOSE responses at school *winky wink*). Then, I ask, "No, really!" Finally, a few kind-hearted souls pat me on the back and tell me to just keep doing what I'm doing, that it's fun to read, blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. And, believe me, I do GREATLY appreciate that feedback. It's helpful in its own confidence-building way. Really! (And a low self-esteem girl like myself needs all the help she can get.)

But, when I sit back and look objectively at the whole thing, it makes me scratch my head. Mind you, the general lack of organization and all-over-the-placeness of MAO reflects the person writing it to a tee. I'm pretty hard to pin down, and my interests hop all over the place (and often change in a second...a little ADD when it comes to some stuff). It's a curse that often bums me out. Heck, 9 times out of 10 Dave and I experience a challenge trying to figure out where to go out for dinner.

And, yet, a big goal in our household is the oh so easier-said-than-done concept of "simplification." It's a noble challenge. We're actually getting closer and closer to this in the physical sense, although we've still got a way to go yet. But, mentally (ie what I'm thinking for my little chunk of the blogosphere), I'm still cluttered to the hilt.

So, surrounded by my mental pea soup, a quite simple thought presented itself, as if by internal dialogue: Easy.

Hmm. Easy, huh? Isn't that the thing that I've grown up to see as "evil"? Isn't nothing in life ever truly easy? Doesn't easy equal lazy? Yes, perhaps, maybe.

For example, growing up, we (meaning my siblings and I - but for the most part, my sister and I) performed a lot of chores on a weekly basis. Let's just say that pretty much every week, the house was newly clean. I admire my mother that her standards were/are so high. I also love the concept that "It doesn't matter how much or little money you have; your belongings can always be taken care of and clean." So, the guilt sinks in when I realize that my house hasn't been vacuumed in weeks, or that I'd never be ready for a surprise visitor at any given moment. I just can't keep up with it - so, am I being lazy? Perhaps. Can I find an easier way to clean everything (and with a more realistic timeline) so that I'm happy with the state of array AND the little time I need to spend doing it? There MUST be! Yes! There's nothing wrong with finding an "easier" way.

So, linking simplification with my new-found admiration of "easy," I'm able to at least look at the direction of the blog with a tad more clarity. Sure, I'm sure I'll still be writing all over the place (what the heck do I use for a label? Personal blog? Green living? Family life? DIY? It's none of those things...and a little piece of each of them, too), but a philosophy of not letting life whack us over the head with the HARDEST solution time after time while attempting to live a simpler life sounds like a nice starting point.

After all, one of the biggest challenges is coming down the road...and who wants to make it harder than it HAS to be? (Yes, I'm still planning on cloth diapering...why do you ask? ;-))

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Birthday List

I haven't been very focused on the fact that my 30th birthday is coming up in less than a month (ack! May 1st, if you're keeping track). We've been a tad distracted by the growing little being in my stomach. Lots of reading, planning, and even a little chatting going on around here. As it is, I'm not the type of person to chat about "my special day" or draw tons of attention to it. Everyone has a birthday, right? As long as I get a shout-out here and there and get to spend some special time with the hubs and family (whether it be the day/night of, or the weekend following), I'm fine. I actually prefer less of a fuss.

But, the big 3-0 is a pretty big deal. Again, not that I want a fuss (hey, it's not like I'm taking the day off or anything silly like that), but the fact that I'm the "baby" as far as my siblings are concerned, I tend to think more about them and my mother when the ol' birthday rolls around. Even my sister once said (when she was asked if she felt old when SHE turned 30), "No, not at all. When Megan turns 30, then I'll feel old." Yep.

Not to mention that whole "when my mom was my age, she already had 3 out of 4 kids" thing freaks me out. It makes me feel like I'm way behind on things! I know it's not a race or anything,'s hard not to think that way. And be overwhelmed.

So, I'm not great at saying, "I want *yada yada yada* for my birthday." With a baby coming, I want as little cashola spent as possible - and don't want to have to find SPACE for a bunch of stuff. (Considering that my shower will be shortly after my 30th, and I'll be getting to that "Whoa, you're gonna pop, huh?" stage, simplicity is a great thing.) While that limited edition glass-and-stainless-steel pump of Mrs. Meyers' hand soap looks appealing, my mind is less on "things" and more on "wishes" for the big day (besides, we're still working on our soap stash from our anniversary trip to Middlebury). So, here's my birthday list this year:

- A happy, healthy baby. Kinda self-explanatory, eh?
- Baby names. We've had some good conversations about names, but I can't say that there are many (if any) that we're both gung-ho, in lurve with. If we could have at least one per each sex that we are confident with, I can officially go into labor. (No. No, I can't. Stay in there!)
- One, count it, ONE night a week where the cats don't try to kill each other so that we can get some uninterrupted sleep. I know, I know - "uninterrupted sleep" will be a thing of the past when Baby D comes. But, that's my point! I'm trying to get it while I can!! It's almost always Winston who instigates it, and usually Jasper as his sparring partner. C'mon, guys, can't we all just get along?! (We hardly ever hear any distress cries and practically never any hissing, so they're playing and wrestling as much as anything, but MAN does it wake you up when you hear the "rolling" start.)
- To actually tackle some of that 30 Before 30 list. More for the guilt factor (and the fact that I WANTED to do this stuff!) than anything else. ;-)
- To be able to say that I accomplished some stuff over my impending spring break. That'll be good.
- Overall, a happy, satisfying life. We're ecstatic (albeit nervous and, at times, overwhelmed) about our soon-to-be-new-family-member, and we're pretty darn solid as far as friends and family are concerned, but there are parts of our life that feel like an unfinished puzzle. Gotta put those pieces together!
- Continued enriching writing experiences, such as the one I just had as a contributor to Kaia Magazine. I loved writing for them, and already know that I'll have an article in their upcoming edition, as well! It's such a great publication. I'm just looking to continue branching out - and, hey, maybe even get a bit of dough in the process! *And a HUGE "Hey, how ya doin'?!" to any folks who are reading this because of the ezine. Feel free to leave a comment!*
- Hmm. Yeah. If I could stop running into setbacks (and I'm a snail in the first place) as far as my bathroom reno (if you could call it that), and finally get the nursery done, that'd be golden.

The neat thing about most of my "birthday wishes" is that I have control over them! (Again, MOST of 'em.) So, maybe I'm just wishing for a bit of empowerment, confidence, and a truckload of motivation for my 30th. Yeah. That'd help.