Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Southland is ba-ack

That's right, folks: the nitty-gritty L.A. cop drama has regained its footing with two excellent episodes to open season four. 

To recap, last spring I lamented the nose-dive in quality taken by the series during its third season. By the end of last year's run, Brad and I had had enough of the show, and we thought we likely wouldn't be tuning in again. 

This is saying a lot, given that Brad and I are nothing if not loyal to ours shows. We've been watching Law & Order seasons on DVD, in order, straight through for months; for years we've been devoted to Burn Notice, The Closer, Psych, NCIS (our fave.), and even House, which had me gagging nearly every episode last season b/c of the never-ending melodrama. 

In fact, the only show I can remember us being fans of and then giving up is In Plain Sight on USA, and we less "gave up" on it than we just sort of lost track of it mid-season and haven't found our way back yet - though I assume we will in time. 

So it is with great relief and no small amount of joy that we welcome Southland back into our TV fold. 

Why the furrowing, John? Things are looking up! 
And I've got high hopes for this season. The story lines have been action-packed and compelling, and the episodes even had moments of artistry. Sammy was funny and reasonable - instead of inanely irritating. John actually smiled on a semi-regular basis. Ben remained cute as can be, though he was a bit less goody-two-shoes, and Lydia got a new partner that Brad and I liked - thank goodness b/c Ochoa was hard to bear. Dewey was still Dewey, but what are you gonna do? I wish Sal would come back, but that's not gonna happen, and I'm on my way to accepting that fact. 

If you're looking for something to watch on Tuesday night at 10:00, tune into TNT and give Southland a shot. Don't let things get as desperate as they have at Amanda's house where they've started watching Dead Zone . . . :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just call me the friendly local realtor

Yeah, I'm doing what it takes to get it done in the good ol' neighborhood. 

Today, when I went outside to go walking (my first workout in, oh, 4 months? That's a whole other story), I noticed a minivan in the driveway next door and a man and woman in the front yard, and I immediately thought, "Opportunity!" 

You see, this 3-br, 1.5 bath house has been on the market since April, and the price has dropped more than $25,000 in this time. Today's perusers were only the fourth group of people I've seen looking at this place in 9 months - not such a great record. From what neighbors have said and what Brad and I were able to tell online, the house has decent bones but the kitchen hasn't been updated in 40+ years, there's paneling on some of the walls (eeks!), and the whole place looks out-freaking-dated. Needless to say, this-not-selling situation is going to kill nearby property values, including ours, and as Brad and I will be looking to sell likely within the next 5 years, this simply won't do. 

So I smiled and said hello, and when the man - in his fifties, same as the woman - looked to be talking to me, I removed my earphones and happily answered their questions. Never mind my green Nike shorts and wintry pink hat (I prefer the term raspberry as a descriptor). 

"Is this a good neighborhood?" he wanted to know. Yes, certainly, we've lived here two and a half years and love it. 

"Are there lots of kids?" Not knowing whether kids were a plus or a minus, I was careful:  "Oh, yes - but most of them are on the lower streets." 

"We're looking for our daughter, she has three." Indeed! I'm expecting a little boy, and on the other side of us they've got a one-and-a-half year old little boy and a little girl who will be five in May. 

"Oh! Ava's four." (And apparently their daughter's youngest, a little boy, is 5 months old.) "So it's a nice area?" Yes, yes, it is. Many of the people in the neighborhood have lived here for years - that house, he's been here since the 70s; they've been there forever, there across the street; down there, she grew up next door where her mother still lives, then she bought that house and raised her kids there. 

"Great! This is what we needed to know. Thanks!" I smiled, I made a joke here and there, I talked this plan of houses up. And now my fingers are crossed so tightly that they're losing circulation. Or wait, that might be all the water I've recently begun retaining . . . . 

Anyway, here's what I want to know:  if this couple's daughter buys the place, who do I see about my commission? 


In standard American English, that is, why is there not ONE panel of interest to me at the 2013 Modern Language Association convention?! 

MLA is the "it" conference in literature, and so I've been scouring the calls for papers page for the past month or so, but with next to no success thus far. There have got to be 80 cfps listed, and yet not a single thing I am genuinely interested in. Even more than that, there have got to be 15 on authors I've never even heard of! 

A friend of mine from a school I attended previously applied last year to seven panels. Of course, he hadn't written these papers in advance; he waited to get accepted to something (which he did) and then wrote the paper for that one. But still: seven?! 

I submitted a single abstract last year (also for an unwritten paper; it did not get accepted), and I'm not convinced I'll even submit that many this year. I've found only one thing that looks like a semi-maybe-possible possibility. And that's a lot of hedging. 

Arggggggggggggh. This is beyond frustrating. I mean, it's not like getting into MLA is easy - because it definitely is not. At all. But as far as I can tell, it's impossible to get accepted to a conference that you don't apply to . . . .

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday 4: Best Craigslist Funnies

You see some strange stuff on Craigslist. No doubt about it. Some of the strangest is in the "Free" section - which, of course, I am always checking :) - but there's also a lot of hilarious spellings out there. 

I can't claim these are the funniest I've ever seen - but they are the funniest I've seen recently. 

4.  "vintage linoleum flooring pieces" described by the owner as "creepy nursery" (free) 

I believe the picture shows such a description to be accurate. 

 3.  ottoman spelled autumn or automan  


beveled spelled bevold 

dining room spelled dinningroom 

wrought iron spelled (of course) rod iron 

armoire spelled, variously, armire, amoir, or armore 

2.  "Vintage JESUS bead curtain" 

This thing costs a whopping $75, but what the seller posted before the pictures almost makes it worth it: 

"Walk into Jesus anytime you want!" 

1.  "FROZEN MEAT" (free) 

Unfortunately, there was no picture with this one. But, as if the title isn't delicious enough, the description will have you rushing to your local deli: 

"I have about 3 pounds of frozen salami, sliced. Been in the freezer for about a year.
Not sure if this is something that your animals can eat or not." 

Yeah, that's real. I did not make it up. If only I had, my friends. If only I had.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Treasure Chest

You know how you always find stuff when you don't need it/have nowhere to put it - but as soon as you're looking for something, it's nowhere to be found?! 

Yeah, well, that's currently the story of my secondhand-chest-of-drawers-for-the-nursery hunt. 

I've looked on Craigslist. Been to the ReStore. Hit a local thrift shop. Craigslist again, back to the ReStore, back to the thrift shop, stopped at Goodwill, Craigslist, Craigslist, Craigslist. Nothing!

Or, not nothing, but nothing that's got the right look, the right quality, for the right price. Which, admittedly, isn't a very high price. But, it's also not a particularly specific look or super-duper high quality I'm searching for. 

Ultimately, I'm looking to spend $60 or less on a tall (but not too tall) chest of drawers. This seems pretty reasonable to me, given that I'm perfectly fine with (in fact, I'm expecting) an older piece and not dreaming of anything with a super great finish/paint. I plan on painting it myself - unless by some strange twist of fate it's exactly what I want, which is highly unlikely at sixty dollars. 

I'm searching for something along these lines, though obviously not brand-new looking. And I'm certainly open to a wide variety of variations on this theme. 

The weekend approacheth and, with it, I can only guess another round of hitting the secondhand shops and scouring Craigslist. Maybe the furniture fates will look kindly on me this time around - if I pretend I'm not hunting a specific type of piece . . . . 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Little Bit of Sweetness

Last night after work, Brad made me one of my favorites, pico de gallo. (This stuff is delish! And easy to make.) He'd worked all day, spent the better part of 3 hours commuting (as usual), but without complaint he chopped up 8 tomatoes, an onion, and a jalapeno while dinner was heating in the oven. He could've crashed on the couch and waited out the kitchen timer, but he didn't. 

This + Tostitos Scoops = Heaven 
Of course I thanked him yesterday, but while eating more moments ago, I texted him to say thanks again. 

His response? "You're welcome. I like making nice things for you." 

Couldn't you just squeeze him? 

We're all about gratitude in this house and we have been for years. I say thank-you when he goes to the grocery store, and he says it when I go. When he cooks dinner, I thank him. When I fold the laundry, he thanks me. These aren't "necessary" thank-yous - the stuff has to get done sooner or later, by one of us, right? - but we've been in the habit for a long, long time of showing our appreciation for each other, and I have to say, it really means a lot to me and I'm sure to him as well. 

Reading February's Better Homes & Gardens this weekend, I came upon a reader answer section; the question was about a trait of your spouse's that you loved. While I identified with a lot of the things readers said, I found myself totally agreeing when I read one woman's response about how her husband thanks her for the things she does and how this makes her happy to do nice things for him. 

I couldn't agree more. Because I know he will appreciate it, I am frequently moved to take on a task that Brad would otherwise have to do - just to make his life a little easier, his day a little less stressful. And he does the same for me. 

I feel lucky to have a husband who appreciates the effort I make and takes the time to tell me he does. And I feel lucky to have a husband who does the sorts of things, big and small, that move me to say thanks

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You know you're cheap when you say,

"Yeah, I want that Hemnes chest of drawers, but I don't want to pay the full Ikea price." 

    or, even worse, 

"This Goodwill is expensive!" and "There was this adorable onesie, but it was $2.00 and I was like, No way!" 

    or, perhaps even worse, 

"That Salvation Army is ridiculous. It's too expensive - I'm not going back there again." 

I think we can officially say I've taken design-on-a-dime to a new (absurd?) level. 

An Organizational Disaster

If my house suffers from one illness, it's Atrocious Unmatched Flooring Disease, which can be cured only with time, effort, and money. But if my house suffers from two illnesses (and believe me, there are more than 2), the second is Clutter-itis

Not my kitchen, but some days, it might 
as well be . . . . 
Clutter-itis, as you may well know, is a result of Too-Much-Stuff-itis and the People-Who-Don't-Pick-Up-After-Themselves bug, an unfortunate combination that leads to messy spaces crowded with paper, clothing, boxes, and a host of other random items that lead me to say things like, "Why do we even own this?" and "I don't understand how I cleaned this living room two days ago and it looks like a war zone already!" 

With the new addition on the way, Brad and I are in need of some serious O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N. If the two of us have managed to fill up (make a mess of?) four bedrooms, a two-car garage, two sheds (gulp that we even own sheds), and quite a number of closets, imagine what the situation will look like in a few months when we're +1. And you know those babies bring tons of stuff along with them (like, where are we even gonna put the stroller, let alone all those toys?!). 

And so Brad and I have resolved to get organized, de-clutter, and stay on top of (or at least next to) the general mess that builds in the course of a day/week. 

Okay, it was bad, but not this bad 
For the past few weeks we've been working on this in our more or less haphazard way: over the course of several days, I shredded about 4 months-worth of paper; we cleaned out the sheds and garage some (only some, believe me) when it was 50+ degrees out a few Sundays ago; I transformed a wasted bedroom closet once filled with "crap" into a very useful abode for my out-of-season-clothes and about 35 pairs of shoes. 

Not bad, but we've got a long way to go before this house is anywhere near as together as it needs to be. There's still a frightening amount of junk lurking in those sheds, an absurd amount of stuff-that-needs-shredded in bags/boxes in the garage from years ago, and the kitchen cabinet situation is anything but user-friendly. And that's just for starters. Soon enough, though, I hope to have a nursery closet organization project to show . . . it's already underway as of yesterday. Then it's onto that dang kitchen!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nursery Woodwork Plans and Inspiration

So, as I mentioned yesterday, our nursery decorating plans have been tweaked (okay, so more than tweaked; how about slightly turned on their head). I'm so excited: we're going to install board and batten! 

Originally we planned on putting chair rail about 3 feet up the wall and painting the bottom half white and the top part a color. But then last week I saw a lovely nursery from Cottage Modern featured on House of Turquoise, and . . . the wheels started turning. Kristen from Cottage Modern and her husband did this board and batten themselves over the course of a few weekends. 

From Cottage Modern 
Some Googling of "DIY board and batten" revealed to me that Brad and I were definitely up for the task, and, happily, that's it's very much within our budget (as much as anything else is, haha :)). 

(Side note: weeks before even seeing this pic - and the map-covered letters of Kristen's little boy's name - I bought cardboard letters for our little guy's name at JoAnn's with the plan of covering each with a different color/print of scrapbook paper - I bought the paper this weekend and started with the first letter Saturday night!)

Here another lovely inspiration photo, this one from Beneath My Heart. I love this one b/c it features dark brown on top, which is what we're planning to use as well: 

Mudroom from Beneath My Heart 
Brad and I did some pricing of 1x4s and 1x2s at Lowe's yesterday (very reasonable prices, btw), though we've got to determine our exact needs before we buy. Although we haven't purchased it yet, we've settled on a shade of white for the board and batten second of the wall; it's a Behr color called (if I remember correctly) "Snowy Pines," a very close but softer white than the really-really-true white of the crib. And we're still in the process of picking out the brown for the upper part of the wall - we've got 4 maybes up there right now. 
At any rate, we're going to start the painting and b'n'b-ing project this weekend with the help of my very helpful mother, so stay tuned for progress pics!

Kitties in costume

Don't they look delectably cute?! 

P.J. in a bonnet 

Cookie with antlers and bells 

Yep, we really did this last week - and it's not the first time we've dressed our cats up in absurd cat outfits and laughed our butts off. They, on the other hand, don't find it so funny. That's why it lasts all of about 3 minutes. (Fuzzy had wiggled out of his wintry hat before we could nap a picture.) Still, there's just something about a sweet furry thing in a blowfish/crab/reindeer/giraffe/bonnet/neck-tie get-up that gets us every time. I mean, aren't these beasts adorable?! And, besides, the outfits only cost like $4 a piece - money well spent :). 

Sunday, January 15, 2012


For most efforts - from cooking to organizing to remodeling - there's a proper, reasonable order in which to tackle the steps. Like, when baking a cake, you mix the ingredients and put the pan in the oven before icing. Or when getting dressed, it's socks first, shoes second. 

When the project is pretty much a total room overhaul, as with our nursery, it's wise to have a plan in place so that you can go from step one to step two to step three in a logical order. For the most part, we had a general sense of how things would go: 

1.  refinish the floor 
2.  paint the walls, closet doors, and the back of the bedroom door 
3.  paint the pieces of furniture we plan on painting. 

And as we go we've been dealing with details like wall hangings and lamp possibilities, and as we found furniture we liked, we picked it up/ordered it. So great. Sounds like a plan. But then I saw a few pictures online that I simply fell in love with (more on that later!) and Brad loves them, too. Suffice it to say, the plan has necessarily changed. 

Basically, the crappy little baseboards had to go. 

Don't mind that crack 
Which sounds all fine and good until you consider that this baseboard removal involves a utility knife, putty knife (I broke down and bought a cheap one at Home Depot the other day, raising our household total to 5), screwdriver, and pry bar - not the friendliest tools for your newly refinished hardwood floor, if you know what I mean.

A girl's best friend? 
(Although, I have to say I loved that pry bar - it was like the best thing ever. If I can concoct other ways to get my hands on that thing, trust me, I'll be pry barring all over my house.) 

As we literally pried the baseboards off the walls last night, Brad must've said 3 times, "We should've done this before we did the floors." Well, yes, dear, yes, we should have indeed. But, it would've been hard to remove the baseboards before we'd even considered removing them. 

At any rate, those suckers are off. And while I didn't look too closely for fear of what I might see, the floors seem to still be scratch-free. Now onto the next step in the newly designed plan . . . . 

All ready for something new! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Friday 4: Strangest Things People Said to Me About Being Pregnant

Even before getting pregnant, I prepared for a certain amount of bristling and even backlash on the part of the professors in my department. Academia isn't always the most family-friendly place, and I've been at a number of universities where baby-having was looked upon as a major no-no for both students and professors. My current school, however, seems to have quite a different attitude toward the situation, and my professors have mostly been genuinely happy for me. 

(And, as a turn of good luck, even though our dept. apparently hasn't had a pregnant student for quite some time, at the present moment I'm only one of three! There's definitely comfort in numbers.) 

The reactions/responses of my fellow grad students, by contrast, have sometimes been unexpected, sometimes funny, sometimes weird, and sometimes plain bizarre. At least no one's come out and said s/he thinks it's an awful idea to have a baby a year before beginning work on my dissertation. That's not to say no one's thinking it, but . . . I'll give them some credit for keeping their mouths shut :). 

4.  "You're brave," said in a tone of fake-awe. 

Why, thank you! I don't usually think of myself as a particularly courageous individual, but I appreciate your - oh, wait. You mean I'm brave b/c I'm having a baby while in a doctoral program? I see. 

This back-handed compliment really isn't surprising at all, and it's in line with the general thought that most PhD students seem to have about being PhD students: that it's the hardest, most time-consuming, most stressful thing one could possibly be doing with one's life

Yeah, this stuff is hard - I'll give you that. And it is time-consuming and stressful and etc. etc. ad naseaum. However, it's no more time-consuming than working as a lawyer (or going to law school for that matter), no more difficult than being a medical doctor, no more stressful than either of these and a host of other careers. And last I checked, lawyers and doctors (and everyone else) have children all the time. I'm not saying it's not gonna be crazy intense - I'm just saying it's not like I'm doing something truly path-breaking here. 

3.  "Um, congratulations? I never know what to say. Like, when someone gets engaged, yeah, but when they're pregnant . . . . " 

Really?! You don't know what to say when someone is expecting a child?! That's not on par with an engagement?! Really?! Really?! 

2.  "Maybe you'll grow fat like a meatball." 

Courtesy of one of our German exchange students, this line was actually just delightful and caused me (and Jo and other people in my feminist theory class) to crack up. He was mildly perplexed that I had not gained a noticeable amount of weight by the end of the first trimester, which actually isn't surprising at all, but I assured him it would come with time. 

Jo's response was equally enjoyable: with a laugh of glee, she said, "Oh, I hope so! Instead of being a bean like you are!" Thanks - so glad to know you're rooting for my meatball-ness :). 

1.  "You're having a kid?" ["Yes." Pause.] "Good - I guess . . . I'm not at that point in my life." 

Oh, well, thanks for sharing, especially since you weren't a part of the conversation. I'm really glad you decided to chime in and assert that my having a "kid" is probably a good thing despite the fact that you, your most fabulous self, are not yet ready for a child. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

4, 3, 2, 1, none

4 is the number of putty knives/painter's 5-in-1 tools we've purchased since the beginning of summer 2010. 

3 is the number we were able to locate at the start of the kitchen wallpaper removal project in summer 2011. 

2 is how many I saw during the rest of the summer as we engaged in various house efforts. 

1 is the number I had to pick from when initiating the hall wallpaper removal debacle in December. 

And . . . none - the exact number I found this afternoon while searching my dining room craft zone, the huge tool space in the garage, and the various places we keep tools in the kitchen. And so I was reduced to trying to remove baseboard molding with a butter knife. You can guess how swimmingly that went.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lamp Fetish

It's true: I've got an undeniable thing for lamps. Big lamps, small lamps, lamps with shades, lamps without shades, metal lamps, glass lamps, ceramic lamps. You name it, I either have it or want to have it - and am secretly plotting to get it next time I step foot in a Target or Goodwill. 

This past weekend at a local thrift shop, I indulged my lamp obsession with this little guy who came to $3.59 after a 50% discount on pink tags: 

The shade was horrid, which is mostly to be expected from a secondhand lamp, so I ripped off the fabric and now it's just this little cheap-o plastic dingy thing that I may nor may not be able to do something with. But I figured the shade was a throw-away when I put the lamp in my cart, so it's no biggie if I can't make it work. 

I'll give him a coat of spray paint (since I don't need a black lamp anywhere) and he'll be good as new. I'm thinking something bright or bold and definitely glossy. This little luminary might end up in the nursery, though I've got other nursery lamp ideas bouncing around in my brain, so we'll see. 

Hopefully he doesn't become yet another one of my I-don't-need-one-more-and-have-nowhere-to-put-it-but-I-just-can't-pass-this-up lamps that I've brought home over the past year or so. I've got like 5 or 6 of those floating around this house - well, they're mostly on the table in the upstairs hall, taunting me as they collect dust in their disuse.

The Ikea Experience

On Sunday Brad and I experienced Ikea together for the first time ever. And I do not use the term experience lightly; the venture was definitely an experience, as "shopping at Ikea" can't quite convey the goings-on. 

Each of us remembers having been there once before, but not together. Brad vaguely recalls a visit during the early part of college, something like 12 years ago (yee-ikes!). My trip was also more than a decade ago, when my soon-to-be freshman roommate came down from Erie for a visit and a bit of shopping so we could coordinate was was to be our (very unhappy) dorm room. 

Anyway, I can safely say Brad and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we set out for the Ikea in Robinson, which is about 15 minutes west of the city and a 50-minute drive from our house; we had no idea what we were doing while we were wandering, lost-feeling but nonetheless pleased, around the store; and we still had pretty much no idea what had happened after we got to the car with our un-bagged purchases. (They don't give you bags - ?!) 

But, it was still a great success, as we managed to buy what we set out to buy (and quite a few other goodies to boot, without totally breaking the bank) and you better believe we will be returning. 

The inspiration for this shopping trip was the Ikea Erslev rug, a white, almost 5x7, steal of a rug at $39.99. You simply can't beat that price, especially if you're looking for a rug to paint. Yes, I said paint

It's simple with a soft texture and only $40 - excellent! 
Recently, as I've been mulling over rug options for our nursery decorating project, I've looked at a lot of painted rugs around the blogsphere - and about 80% of these tutorials make use of the Ikea Erslev rug. Painting a rug - a low-priced one, of course - is an economical way to customize the look you want for a price you can live with (and mixing fabric medium with your paint keeps the rug nice and soft). I love me a pretty rug right straight from the Pottery Barn catalog as much as anyone else does, but I have a very hard time with the thought of parting with two hundred and fifty or three hundred dollars to get said rug into my home. (I did find a Dash and Albert rug for $104 that I liked well enough, but it wasn't perfect.) 

When I checked the Ikea website a few weeks ago, I found either that rug or something comparable (I can't remember now), but when I looked on Friday, it was gone. Nowhere to be found. Nada. Dis-a-ppeared. The best I could get from the Ikea site was an error message. I was not pleased, to say the (very) least. 

A call to Ikea, however, revealed that the rug was still available in the Pittsburgh store (but for how long?!), and so Brad and I planned a Sunday trip to snag it. Actually to snag two (b/c you never know where/when you might need a nice, cheap, versatile rug!). 

Anyway, I guess I expected Ikea to be like a normal store where you walk in, see the labeled areas of the store, go to the area you're interested in, and browse products lined up on shelves or hanging on racks. Maybe this was a dumb expectation? Regardless, it was not the case.

Instead, Brad and I found ourselves in a maze of rooms, wondering if we had gotten lost in the course of our wandering, writing down product names and locations (e.g., Rugs and Textiles) with a little mini golf pencil provided near the entrance, snapping smartphone pictures of things we liked but that I felt I could do a better (read: cheaper) job making. 

Then we took some stairs (I think) down to what (I think) was called the "Market." Here we traded in our (empty) over-sized, yellow shopping bag for a much more practical shopping cart. And then the real shopping began. We got some apple-scented candles. We picked up a few BPA-free plastic 365+ food storage containers to aid in our kitchen cabinet organization project (which has been going for, er, um, oh, like 6 months now). We got some $.59 drinking glasses and a beer mug. 

And of course, we gleefully grabbed our rugs. I also wanted a handful of Ribba frames for the little guy's room and into the cart went those as well. 

These white 9x9 shadow box frames come with white matting, and you really can't do better than their $9.99 price tag. I was tempted to cheap out (after all, $60 for frames isn't exactly my style), but for matching frames of just the right size that require NO SANDING, PAINTING, OR OTHER EFFORT ON MY PART, I was willing to part with the moola. Plus, as my mother pointed out, they can be used over and over again. So, they're well worth the investment in my mind. 

And so with 19 items we (illegally) went through the self-checkout (limit: 15 items) to avoid the heinous lines (this place was packed), then loaded our goods straight from our cart - remember, no bags - into the Honda. It was a whirlwind experience, with people everywhere, and several moments where I was sure we were never getting out of that store. I'm sure I missed like 15 cool things; I definitely wrote down the names of some items that mean basically nothing to me at this point. 

I'd give the Ikea experience a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Less than perfect b/c you (seriously) had to read directions (and pay attention to them, which I didn't do) to figure out how to properly shop there - but a pretty darn good score regardless.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Random Memory: Going Dutch for Pizza

A favorite dating tale of mine comes from early in my relationship with Brad and involves, not surprisingly, food. Strangely, while I normally have a great memory for this type of thing, I can't recall whether this was our second or third "date." While I was just thinking it was the second, I usually remember our second date as a time when he was sick and I brought and "made" him soup at his apartment. (Like so many college students, our dates were often some form of hanging out.) And by "made" I of course mean dumping a can of Campbell's chicken noodle in an over-sized mug, heating in the microwave, and bringing it into the living room for him. 

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about pizza, not soup. (It's definitely true that a huge number of my memories, especially those about dating, revolve around food.) 

As I recall it, we're sitting in Brad's bedroom listening to music (if it's his, I hate it; if it's mine, he hates it) and he orders us pizza for a romantic (haha) dinner for two. When the doorbell rings and he gets his wallet, I say, "Here', I can give you half," and go for my bag or purse or whatever means I had with me for carrying money. 

And my studly future husband responds, "Every little bit helps." And he takes my money. 

That's it. That's the whole thing. He went downstairs and got the pizza, brought it up, and we ate it. 

Every little bit helps! He actually said that! And he actually took my money. For like a $12 pizza! 

This shows you just how out-of-my-18-year-old-mind-in-love with this guy I already was b/c I didn't even think twice about the experience till probably a year later. Yet even while in high school I would have balked at the idea of paying for myself while out with a guy - even if "out" was his apartment. Were a friend of mine to have asked me then, or if a daughter of mine asks me in the future, "Should I go out again with a guy who says, 'Every little bit helps" and allows me to pay for half a pizza," I would screech a resounding, "No!!!!!!!!" 

So basically, I was starry-eyed. 

While half-hiding his face in disgrace, Brad defends himself by noting that he was only 20 years old and he had no game and no money. I say, Veto. 

On a side note, and in defense of myself in the face of my potentially non-liberated stance (feminists everywhere may be weeping), it should be said that I ate half the pizza. Not 2 pieces or even 3, but a full six pieces depite being a wee tiny thing. Translation: even though I think he should've paid for my pizza, I'm definitely not the type of girl who picks at a salad on a date. That should put my feminist conscience at ease. 

I must say, however, that I don't remember having paid for a thing since, with the exception of possibly a birthday dinner or two for him before we were married - so $6 ain't too bad in the grand scheme of things :). 

22 weeks and a definite belly (!)

So, I know I assured Diplo that there would be no posting of belly pics, but I can't resist b/c I'm finally showing! Like, real, true-blue looking pregnant without the help of a stomach full of food. Last week you could tell on some days but not on other days. But now it's fo' sho'. And since it's been a solid 8 or 9 weeks sans pictures, I think I'm entitled to at least one post! 

As a reference for how much this little guy's grown over the past two weeks - yes, we're going to say that its his growth, not mine :) - here was the itty bitty bump on Christmas morning: 

19 weeks 6 days 
This was 3 days after the ultrasound where we found out he was a boy, and he weighed in then at 10 ounces. 

And here's the definitely bigger bump yesterday morning: 

21 weeks 6 days 
He's probably almost a pound here, which is a major jump! No need to comment on the jump I've experienced during this time . . . let's just say it's more than 8 ounces!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Friday 4: House Projects 2012

So, 2012 is going to be a nutso year. But in a good way :). Even so, I've got some projects on my radar. Actually, a bunch of projects, but I've included the four most pressing below. Some are before-baby projects, and others are fine to be after-baby projects if that's how the cookie crumbles. 

Here goes - in the order they need to be tackled, not the order of importance: 

4.  Turn the second bedroom into a nursery. 

This is a continuing project over the course of the next few months. And there's lots to be done! 

The floor's finished, but we haven't moved all of the stuff back in yet b/c we wanted to give it extra extra time to dry since the weather is so brrrrrrcold. We did put the crib together in there tonight, though, which is so exciting! 
Next comes painting the walls (I have a color in mind, but right now it's a secret!) and painting the thrift store dresser we bought a few months back. I've got plans to revamp two of Brad's old bookcases (and make them into one bigger bookcase if possible - ?). Plus I've been doing some online searching for ideas about bedding/window treatments/etc., and Brad ordered the quilt for the crib today. And of course, there are all the little things like lamps and wall hangings. I even got an adorable old-school garbage can from the ReStore yesterday for a buck. So much fun stuff! 

3.  Refinish the upstairs hallway floor and replace the dangerously unsafe wrought iron banister with a new oak one. 

This is going to be a massive (un-fun) project. 

Our current banister is not suitable for man nor beast (well, Cookie actually loves it; she does a little gymnastics routine that Brad fondly calls "the bar routine"), and certainly not for baby. It's loose, too low, and the spindles are too far apart. So, yes, it's going to be replaced. We're not in any way equipped to do such a task ourselves (believe me, I've researched it quite a few times but I usually get lost at the word joist), so we'll be biting the money bullet (hopefully with the help of our tax return) and bringing in a carpenter, likely sometime in February. 

Before that, we're going to remove the old one and have our floor guy come back to sand the hallway, then Brad and my mom will undertake the same (arduous, absurd, agonizing) process they engaged in with the nursery floor. (Cue: collective weeping.) This will probably have to happen over spring break so we can be uprooted and scoot over to my parents' house with the least disruption to our schedules. Hopefully by the time baby arrives, our upstairs will look less like "hovel" and more like "home." 

2.  Remove the hall/stairway wallpaper and paint the walls. 

Gag. I already started this. Months ago. Nevermind the fact that it was part of our plan for summer 2011 . . . . Anyway, a few weeks ago, I scored a ton of the wallpaper, making it even uglier. But my sister's steamer stopped working about 35 minutes into the removal project. So now the wall along my stairs looks . . . about as ugly as you can imagine. 

Yes, this is really what we've been looking at daily 
But it has to get worse before it can get better, right? RIGHT? 

1.  Get frames (with things inside them) behind my couch

Until this summer we had two large frames behind our couch. But the wall is hugely long (something like 19 ft.) and two frames just looked lost. So I moved them to the left of the TV piece, where they look a lot better. They've still got the stock photos in them, but . . . things take time . . . sometimes, lots of time. 

Anyway, now we've got this (don't mind the mess). 

You know, a big empty wall that stretches on and on and on. There's even about four empty feet to either side. 

I searched and thought and searched and thought some more about what to put there that would be nice and cost-effective. Big picture frames ain't cheap, and I was having a hard time parting with something like $125-$200 just for six or seven frames. Add the matting and stuff to put into the frames on top of that, and the price tag could come in at well over $200. (And we're not even talking first-rate frames here.) 

Then my beloved JoAnn's had one of its million sales, and I had a few of their million coupons, and I hatched a picture frame plan. B/c my plan involves spray paint, we've got to wait till the weather warms, but those babies should be hanging in my living room by the end of spring - hopefully by the time our baby arrives in the living room!

Um, well

If you find a bag of these lurking in a corner cabinet in your kitchen, 

Those potato fingers were furry. I shiver to think of it. 
does that mean you're not ready to have a child? If so, we're gonna have to keep a much closer eye on our produce in these coming months so we can get up to par. Good thing I recently cleaned the fridge out . . . . 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tough (Conference) Call

No, I wasn't having a difficult conversation on the phone with several coworkers at once. Ick. That just sounds awful. 

Instead, I had to make a decision about the Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association conference this coming April, the first conference I was accepted to in the fall and the second best of the three I got into for this spring. 

Three conferences is a lot to handle in under 2 months for anyone - let alone for a pregnant chick. And it just so happens that the third one (PCA/ACA) is in Boston, which is a grueling ten-hour drive from Pittsburgh. And it just so happens that I'll be 35.5 weeks pregnant at the time. So while the flight is only an hour or so, any travel at that point is not super-duper advisable. (Most airlines don't allow pregnant women to fly after 36 weeks.) Not to mention how utterly uncomfortable I'm going to be traveling at all. 

See you some other time, Boston 
But there's a good reason to consider going regardless: the paper that was accepted is a version of a longer paper that's already been accepted for publication. Once that publication comes out, I can't present a shorter version at a conference. It's definitely a good idea to get 2 for the price of 1 paper - a conference presentation and a publication - and PCA might be my last chance for this one before it comes out in print. But the journal has a reasonably long lag time, so there's a chance I could hit up a conference next fall or early winter (if I get accepted, of course). Basically, that's a wait-and-see.

Ultimately, I decided to do the responsible thing (however much it pained me): I e-mailed the panel organizer yesterday and declined my spot. I was sure to explain why and she was super understanding. I'm not gonna lie - I was gritting my teeth the whole time. But after talking it over with Brad and with my mom and getting some advice from a prof. who's got little ones, I knew it was the right thing to do. 

And so to Louisville Shannon, Brad, and I drive in late February, and to Vegas Brad and I fly in mid-March. Hopefully I won't be too fat and uncomfortable to enjoy the slot machines, er, listening to conference presentations!

$480 of warmth and joy

Whoever said money couldn't buy happiness never came home (after 9 days!) to a house without hot water at the outset of January in Pittsburgh, nor did he (yes, I assume it was a he) go 3 additional days without said hot water. I am also guessing he never heated water on the stove to wash his hair over the kitchen sink as Brad did on Monday or in the microwave as I did every time I needed to wash my face. 

Yes, the money-can't-buy-happiness statement is folly: last night, $480 dollars bought me the most lovely shower of recent memory. 

Oh, and a new gas hot water heater and installation of that water heater by Amanda's brother (who's a plumber). 

Can I think of other, happier ways to spend $500? (That is purely a rhetorical question.) But, alas, if you must have it, you must have it, and if you must pay for it, you must pay for it - might as well get the joy out of it as well.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Merry Christmas to Our House

Like the big kids that we are, Brad and I made quite a few home-related Christmas present requests. Sadly, we didn't get the paint sprayer I was hoping for (a total necessity when it comes time to redo our kitchen cabinets . . . which will happen . . . eventually), but we made out like bandits otherwise. Errr, I mean, the house made out like a bandit. 

To keep make the floor clean and spiffy, we got these puppies: 

For tasty morning wake-ups (I'm hoping to cut back on that nasty - read: pricey - Starbucks habit ever so slightly), there's the Keurig Elite Brewing System

Ain't it sophisticated?! 
To help us stave off those wintry temps while hopefully breaking the bank a little less than usual, we'll be replacing our old thermostat with this programmable guy: 

And, to aid Brad's early-morning, pre-work snow removal efforts (and all other snow-removal as well), I got him a Toro electric shovel: 

So, even though we are without hot water - oh yes, our barely-out-of-warranty water heater is leaking gas at perhaps the worst possible time (holidays, cold as heck out, start of a new semester) - our home is all set to get a-pamperin'. Now, we've just got to fork over several hundred dollars (ain't no thang, right? Bah!) to get a new water heater installed and then we can enjoy our new home goods and wash our hair/bodies/hands without freezing. 

And then, out of nowhere, Brad says,

"What's that .1% of germs that nothing can kill?" 

(You know, like how antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer kill 99.9% of germs.) 

Hmmmm, I really don't know. And, now that I'm thinking about it, I'd rather not. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The nursery is under way!

The floor is D-O-N-E! The house (though not the nursery itself) is smell-free, and we are back in our space (a day earlier than planned)! Love hanging out with my mom a bunch, but it's sooooooooo nice to be home. 

Brad snapped these pics in imperfect lighting, so they're not 100% accurate representations of the redone floor; the huge improvement is, however, still noticeable, and once we're able to move some furniture in there, I'll hopefully be able to get some great shots. 

Speaking of furniture: I ordered the crib tonight! 

From the beginning, I've had my eye on a Jenny Lind crib. I love the old-fashioned spindle look, and the style is timeless and simple without being dated and boring. As another benefit, several brands make Jenny Lind, and they're all relatively reasonably priced as far as cribs go. 

We got the DaVinci Jenny Lind stationary side crib in white through Amazon. DaVinci is one of the better brands that makes the Jenny Lind style (though they all seem to get generally good reviews), and while it's normally about $200, it was discounted on Amazon to $150 with free shipping. I was beginning to doubt that we'd be able to avoid paying $25 or more for shipping - which was infuriating and totally not my style - and I couldn't find it in a conveniently located brick-and-mortar, so the free shipping was a major score. 

Why not a secondhand crib? This was a decision that Brad and I spent a lot of time discussing and researching, and I'm glad we did. My original plan was to buy a crib secondhand on Craigslist - as is my general trend whenever possible. I searched for months and months for a Jenny Lind, and I found a few within a reasonable distance. They were all drop-side, though, which meant they would require a repair kit (to make them stationary) from the manufacturer given that drop-side cribs went through major recalls in 2010 due to injuries to babies. In the midst of this search, one of my older sisters offered me her children's old crib, and when I learned that it was a Jenny Lind, I was like, YES! 

But upon researching, I found out that the manufacturer had gone out of business and thus there was no repair kit for her crib. And after reading that site, I started reading another about the not-so-great aspects of secondhand cribs, especially older and drop-side cribs. The more a crib is put together and then taken apart (like, for a second or third child), the looser the hardware becomes and the more likely that hardware pieces go missing. With a drop-side that's been "repaired" to be stationary, this is especially problematic, as the side may not be as stationary as it's supposed to be. 

In general, the recommendation is to not use a crib older than 10 years old b/c safety features change so much over time. But even for those newer drop-side cribs that I could've found through Craigslist, there was a distinct chance that the crib had been dis- and re-assembled one too many times to be ideal. 

Ultimately, it's a risk I didn't want to take, and Brad couldn't have agreed more. There are a lot of ways we're saving with this nursery - we got a steal of a rocker, we did most of the floors ourselves (okay - "themselves"), we bought a vintage dresser ($25!) that we'll paint and use as a changing table, etc. But when it comes to issues of safety, the extra $75 for a new crib is more than worth it, especially when you think of all the many many hours baby will spend sleeping in that crib over the next couple of years.

No resolve?

This bright and balmy new year, I've formulated precisely no resolutions. Since I'm nearly positive that I've never actually stuck with a resolution in the past, it doesn't seem like much of a loss. Besides, my resolution is usually to workout and get fit (always with an eye on the scale) - a fitness overhaul type of thing, and something that doesn't exactly mesh with pregnancy. 

I traditionally detest New Year's, as rather than looking forward, I typically look back at all those things I have failed to accomplished in the past year (including my failed resolution). That doesn't make for the happiest of moods. 

Plus, we have a tradition of doing a whole-lot-of-nothing-exciting on New Year's Eve - that is, Brad, my mom, and I sit in her living room watching TV or a movie until about 15 minutes before the countdown when we turn to Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve; rip on the people crowding Times Square ("Why would you ever want to go there?!"); gasp at the inane awfulness of the music being performed (last night we were horrified by Lady Gaga); and then watch the ball drop. 

To be clear, I haven't resolved to not-resolve or anything so hipster as that. It's only that nothing particular springs to mind on this here New Year's Day, perhaps b/c the past few months/weeks/days have been so chaotic that I haven't had 35 seconds to even think in peace and silence. 

And believe me, it's not like there aren't areas in which I could use some improving - there are aplenty. I can think of a number of proclamations I could (and possibly should) be making. For instance: 

Write more fiction. 
Read more. 
Be less judgmental. 
Go to church more. 
Keep a cleaner house. 
Learn to meditate. 

These are all good resolutions, and they're all things I want to do. 

Even so, I haven't been bitten by the resolution bug for whatever reason. (I don't think I made any resolutions last year either.) In the face of my 2012 non-resolution-ness, I think maybe I'll just keep an open mind and try to work daily on improvement. Whatever that means at a given moment, even if it's something small. 

So, if "improving in general" counts as a legit, true-blue resolution, then call me resolved. If not, well, then that's okay, too.