Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Score! Double Score!

Responses from the Louisville Conference on Culture and Literature since 1900 went out today . . . I got accepted for both panels I submitted to! 

For most conferences you're only allowed to submit to one panel, but Louisville has creative panels as well as the traditional critical panels - which means I'm going to be reading a critical paper and then, at another time, reading my fiction as well! Score! 

No, Louisville isn't the greatest conference in the world, nor is it the hardest to get into. But, most of the people in my dept. who applied last year got in, so if I didn't get in this year (I didn't apply last year), I would have felt sad. And after all those rejections last school year (5!), I'm flying high over another acceptance. 

Looks pretty! 
Plus, Louisville's relatively close (though not so close that driving in the car in possibly crappy February weather while 6 months pregnant won't be a pain) and registration and hotel accommodations aren't terribly expensive (though not "cheap"). 

So I'm siked. Butcher's going, too, and I'm guessing a bunch of other peeps from my dept. who I've yet to talk to (it was a chaotic, student conference-filled day). And Brad's coming! He'll get to the be my chauffeur :). Which makes me even happier, b/c I pretty much hate having to drive. Hopefully it won't be too cold and we can do some sight-seeing. Wonder what the temperature in Kentucky is in late February . . . .

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why I love Bob Costas

As if his years of stellar - and hilarious - Olympic coverage and the fact that he hasn't aged in 20 years weren't sufficient, tonight on Monday Night Football, Steelers vs. Chiefs, Bob Costas busted out the following line: 

"We live in a culture that in many ways grows more stupid and graceless by the minute . . . . " 

The man's got his finger on the pulse of America. 

My boy Costas then continued by commenting on the absurd, obnoxious, ridiculous celebrations that go on in the NFL end zone or after a sack, etc., a critique with which I could not agree anymore whole-heartedly (and I'm guessing most NFL fans are with me). 

Before closing, Costas offered another gem, saying, "Hey knuckleheads, is it too much to ask that you confine your buffoonery to situations that don't directly damage your team?" 

Is he 30? 40? 50? 
I do believe those knuckleheads were just Costa-cized

Yep, Costa-cized. That's a term Brad and I coined during the '06 Torino Winter Olympics to describe the phenomenon of a Bob Costas zing! - beautifully exemplified by his commentary during the male cross-country relay event:

 "Truly a warm moment on a cold and snowy night in Torino. The hometown fans just loving this. And I'm loving this Christian Zorzi, the anchorman on the relay team. He was nicknamed 'Zorro' in Salt Lake after an individual bronze medal performance when he donned a cape and a mask. Which is pretty much what I like to do after what I consider a successful broadcast." 

Isn't he refreshingly fab? I think Brad just summed it up quite well: "Oh, Costas, he's a rascal." 

Baby Furniture!

I should be working on the most pointless end-of-semester project ever (sigh), but instead I'm geeking out over awesome baby furniture online and getting ideas for the nursery - as if I don't already have a million. 

Of course I'm not planning on buying any of this lovely over-priced stuff. No no no, that's not thrifty old me. I'll be looking for second-hand and imitation styles to save mucho moola. In fact, I've already found some - and it's proof that you can find great stuff at great prices if you put in a little (sometimes a lot of) effort and have patience. 

Case in point: after searching online like 7 different times over the past few months, last week I found this amazing rocker on Craigslist, and the next day Brad went to the city to see it (I was too sick), liked it, and snagged it for less than $70. Sciz-ore! 

Isn't it fabulous? It's in great condition, so comfy, and rocks super smoothly. Plus, it's a light khaki color - i.e., totally neutral and goes with anything. 

While the typical nursery-style rocker/gliders are nice (and Amanda's is quite comfortable), they're not really my style.

Dorel rocker from Target 
I wanted something that looks like - for lack of a better word - real furniture. As in, furniture I might have elsewhere in my house. And hopefully, once the baby gets older, I will have this elsewhere in my house! 

Anyway, the inspiration for our rocker was the Pottery Barn Dream Rocker, which PB stopped making recently and ran upwards of $800 (yiiiiiiikes!) but was supposed to be super comfortable. It also reminds me of a current rocker at PB, the Charleston rocker, which starts at $599 and goes up to $899 depending on the fabric. The Charleston has an $80 delivery surcharge - that's more than the price of our rocker! 

PB's Charleston rocker 
The room we'll be turning into the baby's room, which is across the hall from our bedroom and currently the second bedroom, is 10x12. So, it's a fairly good size, though obviously not huge. I was a tad worried that an upholstered rocker might be too big, but it fits beautifully and I'm sooooooo happy with our purchase! Hopefully the little one will love it as much as we do!

Oh, for a Turkey Tom; or, Pregnancy Cravings?

No, that's not a reference to Thanksgiving (though Happy belated Turkey Day!) - it's actually a reference to a Jimmy John's sandwich. A delicious 8-inch turkey sandwich on a French hoagie roll, with shredded lettuce, tomato, provolone, and mayo, minus the sprouts. Super fresh, super basic, and super good. I think I could eat 2 right this second. And then 2 tomorrow. 
But no rest for the weary and no lunch meat for the pregnant. Unless of course you're going to heat it to 160 degrees which is not part of the Turkey Tom recipe. (Although I did read in Pregnancy and Newborn magazine recently that some doctors say you've got about next to no chance of actually getting listeria from deli meat.) 

I know: a turkey sub doesn't exactly sound like a wacky pregnancy craving. I don't even think it really counts as a "craving" beyond "I haven't had Jimmy John's in like forever and I thought of it the other day and now really, really want one." B/c they are so good.

Brad and I used to eat Turkey Toms sometimes once a week while I was getting my master's, but there aren't any JJ's in my local area (although there is one in Oakland). I guess that's a plus right now b/c at least it's not taunting me on a daily basis. 

Anyway, what I want to know is what's the deal with these goofy pregnancy cravings I've always heard so much about? 

Are they legit? Are they coming my way soon or do I get a pass or are they really just exaggerated by people and the media? I certainly haven't had one ounce of desire for something like peanut butter on pickles or ketchup in my ice cream or chicken with cream cheese. (Although I have consumed all six of those foods/condiments separately while being pregnant). That stuff sounds just as gross as it did beforehand. 

Is it possible that I'm being weird by being, well, normal? Okay, maybe not totally normal: I would pay a small fortune and walk a mile, even with this persistant cold, if I could have a Turkey Tom right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Best and Worst in Politics this Week

The "Best" award goes to a real headline that sounds both like it's straight out of The Onion and completely accurate: 

"Fox News Viewers Known Less Than People Who Don't Watch Any News: Study" 

Maybe I should clue my dad in - ? He watches all the new channels though (constantly), so maybe he's breaking even. 

And the "Worst" award goes to Herman Cain for declaring that should he be elected president (dear goodness, please no) he will do whatever he can to defund Planned Parenthood. Yeah, sounds like a great idea. NOT. How do these idiots get into the position to run for the most powerful job in the world?! 

Guess my politics are pretty obvious at this point :). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Plant a Garden

Home sick with a sore throat and cold, sneering at the ugly weather (there's a flood watch for tonight, for crying out loud!), and thinking about greener, sunnier days to come. And gardens. 

Flowers and fruits and veggies. Green and yellow peppers, violets, lillies, daisies, watermelon, tomatoes, and more and more and more. 

I'd like to plant a garden (not right this second, obviously), something I never imagined myself saying, but I actually have no idea how to go about doing so. Of course I can look online and find 300 different ways, but it's curious to me that I've made it this far in life, almost three decades, and I don't know where to begin. 

This isn't a metaphorical garden I'm talking about. I'm talking real garden: dirty hands and knees, bugs (ick), the smell of flora and produce. I'm talking questions like, Do we have a proper place? The right kind of soil? When is the optimal time? Can you grow XYZ in this climate? 

I guess I do know where to start: by recognizing my total lack of knowledge and asking questions. But it still seems odd that something so, well, natural, something I read about and see all around should be such a mystery to me. 

It seems like such a complicated task - to plant things, shield them from the weather and insects, make them grow, harvest and enjoy them - and yet so completely simple. There are probably many things like that: simple, ordinary things that boggle the mind (or at least my mind). 

I'd like to plant and tend a garden, see (literally) the fruits of my labor, feel pride when little seeds turn into something much more, feel a bit of peace being in nature. Maybe this spring I'll find a little patch of earth in the backyard and try my hand at making some good things grow. It can't go any worste than the potted tomato/cucumber/pepper failure of this past summer . . . .

Sunday, November 13, 2011


No, not the television show. I've actually never even seen it, though Jane Lynch is pretty awesome. I'm talking about the emotion - as in, I'm experiencing glee everytime I think about how I only have 4 more night classes ever to attend as a student

Doesn't that just sound fan-freaking-tabulous?! 

That's right, this Monday and Thursday and the Monday and Thursday after Thanksgiving and then my night-class student tenure is OFFICIALLY OVER. (You better believe I'm counting down.) Sure, I might have to teach night classes in the future, but that's different b/c, well, b/c it just is. (Haha.) 

It's truly hard for me to convey just how sick of coursework I am. I have spent 11.5 years in post secondary education at this point - all the while taking classes. ELEVEN AND A HALF YEARS! Next semester I will finish up my last 3 credits of coursework out of the classroom - doing an independent reading with my drama professor (this is studying plays, not performing them) - and I'll start writing my lists for my comprehensive exams. 

Will things get easier? Surely no. But I cannot wait to not be stuck on campus until 9 p.m. and then have to drive nearly an hour home! This is joyous! Smile with me! Glee, I tell you! Glee! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

CSB: 6 Months

Back in May, I put myself on a 365-day Clothes Shopping Ban b/c I decided that I have more than enough clothes already, more than enough I never or rarely wear, and not nearly enough money to be buying any more unnecessarily. 

It's been 5 months and 28 (or 29) days since then, and I haven't bought one single piece of clothing. Not one shirt. Not one pair of jeans. Not one dress or skirt or sweater or pair of shorts or jacket. I haven't even bought a sports bra. Not at a regular store and not at a thrift store and not online. Though believe me, there were some dicey moments (such as when Gap in June had "40% off all sale items" and Brad had to drag me out of the Waterfront Gap while I salivated and made up various excuses for why it was reasonable for me to shop). 

The only "apparel"-y things I bought were new running shoes - which were a health necessity considering I got runner's knee from wearing my too-old ones - and a $5 real leather Kenneth Cole purse from Goodwill (and, actually, my mom paid for the latter), but shoes and accessories weren't part of my ban anyway. 

On Monday it will be 6 months, meaning I'm halfway there. But, as one might have guessed, I'm going to need maternity clothes in the not-so-distant future. As I said to Butcher the other day after I ate dinner in the office and my pants chastised me for doing so, "Size 0 American Eagle skinny jeans are not made for pregnant people." I've been wearing my regular clothing up till now, and in the morning everything fits fine. But there's something about being pregnant and eating - after a day's worth of food, you really look pregnant and your pants second that motion. 

With week 14 fast approaching, I'm not too far away from needing some new jeans. So, the plan is a Thanksgiving break Target-a-thon, where they've got the adorable Liz Lange maternity collection. It's not likely that maternity pants are going to come anywhere close to fitting me at this point as I haven't even gained five pounds, but I guess that's where a Bella Band (or a knock-off) comes in, so I'll pick one of those up, too. 

I couldn't be happier about breaking the clothing ban - after all, it's b/c I'm having a baby! The truth is, though, that at about 1 month into this whole thing I was like, "No way am I doing this for a whole year. This stinks. Six months is more than enough." Now I just have a good excuse :). 

Even so, I'm pretty proud. I saved us a ton of money (which we then turned around and spent on the house, haha) and got a lot more wear out of the items I do have. I'm sure I will savor shopping for clothes at least a little more now, and even though I already bought nearly everything on the cheap, I'm sure I'll be a bit more spending conscious. 

Grading = Tedious

What happens when you get 16 student papers on a Thursday, grade two on Sunday and not one more through the following Thursday? Well, you get to spend the weekend grading the 14 others, that's what. 

Every time I get a batch of papers, I say to myself, "I'm going to grade three of these a day, or at least two, so that it does not become overwhelming and stressful and make me want to weep." Every. Single. Time. 

Never once have I actually done that - although one time, last year, I think, I came rather close. But even that seems so vague it may have been a dream. 

And believe me, I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've never met a teacher who likes grading, and most loathe it. Butcher and I spent not a little bit of time on the phone last night gasping about grading instead of, well, actually grading. 

Why is grading papers so tedious? Here are a few reasons: 

- students just disregard various elements of the assignment. 

- they ignore your directives. We're not talking about suggestions like, "Maybe consider this angle," but things along the lines of, "Take that summary paragraph out; there's not supposed to be any summary in this paper." 

- students don't proofread, and a good bit of their writing sounds like talking, but writing isn't supposed to sound like talking b/c when someone is talking she gives you all sorts of cues and clues that writing does not give you, therefore allowing you to follow the conversation. 

And it just takes a long time. Every now and again you get a good paper, one that fulfills the requirements of the assignment with energy and creativity and readable English. Unfortunately, one of those every 7 or 8 papers isn't enough to keep your spirits up. 

I don't know if it's like this with upper-level courses; I desperately hope not, though of course there will always be students who don't want to write the paper, don't put effort into it, etc. Sometimes, I can't even blame students in freshman comp. for being disengaged from the material - after enough time teaching this class it's hard not to ask, "Why are we teaching them this?" 

But then I start grading the papers, and I realize they've got to improve their writing somehow and sooner rather than later would be ideal. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wow. Just wow

Brad and I just heard the most wonderful sound: our baby's heartbeat. 

Yep - I'm pregnant! 

It was so wild, hearing that thumpthumpthumpthump, loud and fast. We taped it with my digital recorder, and when we listen to it, we can't help smiling. That's our baby. Wow. Like, geeze. 

Quick stats: I'm just over 13 weeks along, due mid-May. We've known since early in Sept., when not one, not two, but three pregnancy tests (over the course of about 18 hrs.) showed us 2 pink lines. It took 11 months of trying and happened the month before we were going to start Clomid. And I've been sick for almost 7 weeks. No throwing up, but a constant stomach ache for about 5 weeks which was replaced by horrid, near constant tension headaches (exacerbated by pregnancy hormones) about two weeks ago. 

Not much of a belly yet, but I have gained 3.5 lbs.! 
So, I've felt better (and I've looked better - my rosacea is terrible right now). But it's okay, b/c I am beyond thrilled. Beyond beyond beyond thrilled. Finally! How exciting! And Brad's favorite refrain is a half-shouted "I can't wait for baby!" 

We're having a baby. It's simply wonderful. 

Cookie Dough

What was once a skinny, greasy, kinda sickly looking shelter kitty 

is now a plump, furry, sweetheart of a housecat. 

This little fatty (as we affectionately call her) went from just 7 lbs. to a whopping 9.3 lbs since the end of June. Let's just say she's not shy about eating. At all. It's only fitting that Brad this morning nicknamed her "Cookie Dough."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Words cannot express how awesome this is

Though I am decidedly not pro-princess fairytale (save the saving for small animals!), this is simply fabulous: 

Don't ask me where it's from. I won't tell you that it's from Pinterest, even if you suspect it may be . . . . 

(And, as an admission, I love The Little Mermaid. Sentimental favorite. Even if there is so much un-feminist b.s. in there.) 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Pinterest is Daaaaaangerous

If you're anything like me, the internet could suck your entire day away and the only way you'd know anything had happened was the raging headache/neckache/backache that comes from sitting in front of the laptop for 6+ hours. 

I've had my share of internet addictions over the years: eBay, Craigslist, decor/design blogs, clothing websites (esp. J. Crew). And let me tell you, they're fun and they're not fun. 

So naturally, as I've seen mention after mention of Pinterest - the "online pinboard" where you save pics of things you love - on some of my fave. home decor blogs recently, I've been both intrigued and wary. Pinterest is open for everyone to see and comment on, meaning that you save whatever kind of pictures you want and organize them however you want, and other people can browse through your board. They can also re-pin things to their own board. 

Why does this make me wary? Well, b/c it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I could get addicted to. A good board would be like a home magazine with all the ads and articles eliminated - just picture after picture of beautiful rooms and furniture and, basically, great ideas. Or, maybe picture after picture of cool clothes, outfits I want to replicate, pieces I covet, must-have styles. 

See why it's oh-so-very dangerous? Sounds like the sort of thing an internet junkie like myself could lose whole weekends to. 

Until about 15 minutes ago, I've managed to stay away from Pinterest and all it's enticing pictures. But I decided to check it out - I mean, for purely educational purposes - and while I must admit I don't quite understand the nuts and bolts (like, how do you search for things?), I like what I see. 

I will, however, temper myself and keep that pointer finger - which is itching to click click click the mouse - in check. I'll grade papers, since it's Sunday, and I haven't done a bit of work all weekend. I'll put yesterday's Target purchases in their new rightful places. I'll . . . do something other than scour lovely photos. At least till later :).

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Friday 4: Best Trader Joe's Products

Until this spring I'd never knowingly tasted a Trader Joe's product, and until this summer, I'd never stepped foot in the store. But on a city adventure this summer, Brad and I stopped by the Pittsburgh store, which is located in the new posh area of posh Shadyside (where all the cool hipsters live). I'd been jonesin' for my very own bottle of Pear Cinnamon Cider, which my modernist poetry professor brought to class one day in the spring. I must've drunk half the bottle that day . . . . 

Brad was skeptical that this was going to be another Whole Foods,* and honestly I wasn't totally sure it wouldn't be, but we went anyway and were both very pleasantly surprised. It was a whole lot smaller than I'd expected, and the customers were super not-friendly. But the staff is awesome, and the prices are super reasonable. Plus, they've got a bunch of products (almost all of which are their own brand) that I just haven't seen elsewhere (though, to be fair, I was never really looking). 

We've at least liked nearly everything we've gotten there, and loved a whole lot of it. Below are my four favorites. TJ's products have become a semi-staple (it's hard to get over there, otherwise we'd go bi-weekly) in our diets.Check out a TJ's if there's one local. 

4.  Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tacos 

I ate too many of these the first two times we bought them (surprise surprise - bah), so I'm sick of them, but Brad loves them, and they are surprisingly tasty and easy to make (8 min. in the oven), and they're not soggy. We always eat them as-is, but I'm sure they'd be delicious with some shredded cheese as per the picture on the front of the package. 

I want to say the box of mini tacos is $3.99 (?), but it could be a little more. Even so, it's not a bad price at all, and there's way less sodium in TJ's frozen products than in typical frozen products. 

3.  Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider 

At $2.99 a bottle, this isn't one of the best-priced items TJ's has to offer, but it's so tasty and different I can't leave it off the list. It's sweet with a bit of a kick (but not too much kick) and not like your usual bottled juice. 

(Brad just commented, "That would be one of my favorites, too, if I were ever allowed to have any." It's true: I'm stingy. But you have to understand just how much I adore this cider.) 

2.  Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce 

I think this stuff goes for about $1.99. Maybe $2.49. It's delish. I am not a daring eater, and of the, oh, three (?) Indian dishes I've tried, chicken tikka masala is my faaaaaavorite. 

TJ's sauce is thinner than what you get at an Indian place, and it does have a bit less spice. But we've found the trick is to not add any water, because when you cook the chicken (in the skillet), the juices from the chicken will already thin out the sauce. (The directions on the jar say to add a jar's worth of water - DO NOT!). 

As an additional note, we pair the chicken with TJ's jasmine rice. We've never found a better price on jasmine rice, and, as with all rice, Brad (for some reason) has the most success cooking it in the microwave. Just be sure to rinse it out well beforehand! 

1.  Trader Ming's Mandarin Orange Chicken 

This is by far the best not-from-a-Chinese-restaurant-Chinese-food I've ever had. It actually tastes like Chinese food, which I can't say for any of the other frozen Chinese bag meals I've consumed. And believe me, that number is higher than I'd like to admit. 

The chicken comes out crispy, there's nearly enough sauce (instead of the usual absolutely-not-enough), and the flavor is delicious. It doesn't actually taste like orange chicken you'd get at a Chinese restaurant, but it does taste like authentic something (very exact description, I know). 

There are three servings in a bag, and we actually parse it out into 3 servings - we each have one and save the other for the next time - so at $4.99 a bag, that's a pretty cheap meal considering all you need to add is white rice. 

*No offense to Whole Foods-lovers. They've got great produce and meat and some other nifty stuff, and when we had the money (rarely) or I was on a three-day health binge (more frequently) back when we lived in the city, Brad and I would head on down to the Whole Foods in Shadyside and stock up. But their prices are beyond outrageous, and the air of superiority floating around that place and in a 50-foot radius is unreal

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unreasonable question

Can I take, oh, like 3 months off from school to craft fun things and decorate my house?

. . . 

Oh, no? That's not feasible? Darn you, Reality. You're such a bum. 

In leiu of that enjoyable prospect, how about a quick picture (details to follow) of the dining room drapes I finally finished last night. I started this project - which involved fabric dying, ribbon, and stitch witchery - in, oh, July? Let me tell you - it was one tedious effort. But so worth it when you consider the cost (less than $25 for a pair of floor-length drapes) and the finished result! 

Alright, off to Amanda's for the day, then a poetry reading with Butcher tonight . . . just like a good grad student. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pottery Barn Vanessa Bedding

So I'm super siked: I just ordered the PB queen duvet cover and matching shams in the blue Vanessa print on eBay for $49.99 + shipping! What a steal! 

On the PB website, the duvet cover (in full/queen) alone is $129 and the shams are $39 a piece. That's $207 - meaning I saved $157! And me, the super second-hand shopper, totally doesn't mind that this set is pre-owned - I'm not sleeping on it! 

This set it beautiful, and I've had my eye on it for like a year and a half. But I just couldn't bear spending the money, and I've never found a good enough deal on eBay (until today). Just yesterday I gave in and re-bought the Simply Shabby Chic set at Target that I've really liked since this summer ("re-bought" b/c months ago we bought it, I decided I didn't want to spend the money on it, and we returned it). 

But, it has pink (which Brad and I both oppose), it was $90, and I love the Vanessa print so so much more. Plus the Vanessa set was almost $30 less. Basically, I'm really pleased with myself right now (haha). 

Here's to happy bedroom decorating! 

Taming the Caffeine Beast (Day 1)

So I've decided - for about the 20th time in my life - to get my caffeine consumption a bit more under control. Though this is possibly the first time I've ever decided to do so without maintaining the lofty (and never-reached) goal of cutting it out completely. 

The motivation behind this is pretty simple: I've been getting awful caffeine headaches of late. Yes, I've had my share of caffeine headaches in the past, but these past few weeks they've been wicked - and sometimes all I need is a glass of Snapple (we're talking a measly 20-25 mg of caffeine) to calm them down. 

So why cut back instead of just drinking the Snapple? Well, it's frustrating to be drinking caffeine and then, a few hours later, need to drink more even if I'm not in the mood for it or it's too late in the day or there are no caffeinated beverages conveniently located. 

Basically, I'm aiming to make myself less caffeine-dependent without totally cutting my ties. I do, after all, love my Starbucks :). 

Right now, an average day looks like this: 

-2 cans of Mt. Dew (55 mg each) + a 16 oz. bottle of Snapple (42 mg) = 152 mg 
-a medium caramel Frappucino (75 mg) + 1 can of Mt. Dew (55 mg) + a glass of Snapple (20 mg) = 170 mg 
  or, occassionally 
-a medium iced caramel machiatto (150 mg) + 1 can of Mt. Dew (55 mg) = 205 mg 

So b/t 150 and 200. Fair enough, and equivalent to about 2 cups of regular coffee. But if I'm not in the mood for another Mt. Dew (which has happened a lot lately, actually) or we're out of Snapple or I forget how long ago I drank something caffeinated . . . whoa, holy heck, the caffeine headache rolls in and knocks me on my butt. 

After doing a bit of reading today, it seems the best strategy is to cut back by 25% for a week, then 25% more of the original amount for the next week, etc., until you've reached your goal. Since I like my pop and love my Starbucks, I'm only looking to get myself to, say 50-75 mg a day - about one caffeinated beverage. Hopefully I'll be there by Thanksgiving. 

My first step? Keeping myself at 150 mg for the next week. Which means, sadly, no caramel machiattos. But that's okay b/c after years of not getting frappucinos, I've been on a frap kick for a while now anyway. Wish me luck!