Monday, December 31, 2012

That's a Wrap, 2012!

In just a few hours, those of us that live in the Central Time Zone will be ringing in 2013. No crazy parties for me this year. Just an evening movie, some Chinese food, and watching the ball drop on tv. Scandalous, I know.

It has been quite the year. Looking back, a whole lot has happened. Consider these the highlights that would be included in my holiday letter, which I did not write or send. But here's what you might have received.

  • Chris got a job here in Milwaukee. (I can tell you now that it was the wish I made on a piece of confetti that dropped with the ball in Times Square last year. No lie. We'll see if my wish from this year comes true!). 
  • We moved into our awesome duplex, and began to make it home.
  • I wracked up a whole lotta travel miles, both for work and for fun, including stops in Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Chicago Indianapolis, Columbus, Duluth, and rounding out the year in New England with a bonus trip to NYC. Oh, and I even crossed the border into Canada!
  • A few great concerts, including my 21st and 22nd DMB shows, Florence and the Machine, Gavin DeGraw and David Grey.
  • I recommitted to my dissertation and found a new advisor. And I continue to make good progress on my proposal, with plans to do my oral exams in the upcoming semester. Yeah school. 
  • I saw the president. Live and in person. And it was magical.  
  • I crossed a number of items off my bucket list, including #3, #7, #8, #9, #10, #12, #20,  #23, #25, and #27 (See the list on the right for details). Oh, and #1: Read 30 books for fun. You'll just have to hear about Book 30 in the new year. 
  • I became a real adult and investing in our first appliances thanks to some very generous support from our parents. More on that later. 
  • I saw some of my closest friends get married and have babies. Woah!
  • A major hair cut, from long locks to a pixie!
  • I became a runner. Although I haven't run in a few months, it's one thing I hope to pick back up in 2013. 
  • Oh, and I found Grumpy Cat. Life changer.  
While I can't know for sure, I anticipate that even greater things will come from 2013. I mean, I turn 30 in just six weeks!

Happy New Year y'all. I hope that your expectations are exceeded. Go do something big in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

30B430 Book 29: The Hobbit

Holy crap, I found time to read a book!

Let me start by saying that I am not a huge Lord of the Rings fan. My experience with JRR Tolkien can be summed up as: Attempted to watch the first two LOTR movies a few months ago, fell asleep during both. Did not attempt the third. I really only watched them because so many people would tell me, "What do you mean you've never watched Lord of the Rings?!" Sounded like something I was supposed to do.

With The Hobbit coming out as a movie, I decided to give the whole thing another go. I agreed to go to the movie with Chris, but only if I could read the book first. Or attempt it. I hate being that person in the movie theater asking a million questions because I don't understand what is going on. And I didn't really think keeping all of those dwarves straight was going to happen without at least reading the book.

So I did. And I didn't hate it. There was definitely an adventure to the story, and I wanted to see how it all turned out for Bilbo Baggins. The writing style wasn't exactly my favorite. But I got through it. Will I read the LOTR books now? Nope, probably not.

And now it's movie time. Hoping it is a good one. : )

This definitely wouldn't get an A for a book report. But that's my post. Only one book to go!

Dead Air.

It's time to put an end to the silence!

I'm here!

Sorry for the long absence. Between a crazy work/personal/dissertation schedule, traveling, and fighting a nasty cold for the last ten days, I haven't had much time to personally reflect, let alone throw some thoughts down for others to read.

Plus, I ran into this crazy blogging issue that other bloggers may be able to relate to. Apparently you eventually hit a limit on your free photo storage when using Blogger. And then all of a sudden, you need to decide if you are willing to commit to paying monthly for additional photo storage. Or you have to have all-text posts. Boo. Who would want that? I had to come up with a plan to work that out, and now, here I am again.

I may not have been writing, but I have been reading others blogs, and wow, they are filled with holiday cheer! Things they are baking and making, gifts they are giving, the whole shebang.

I'll be honest. I've been kind of a grinch this year. I am usually all about the Christmas season, but this year I just either haven't been home or haven't been feeling well enough to do it. I can't even fake it. Totally lackluster. I decorated the house back in November, and then have done nothing for all of December, other than watching a handful of Christmas movies. No baking. No holiday parties for this party pooper. I've kept my snot and germs home with me on the couch. My gifts are not nearly as thoughtful or well-planned as I'd like them to be. And I finished writing out my Christmas cards last night but haven't gotten them in the mail yet. Stay tuned for those after the holidays.

While I love Christmas, I am totally okay with my limited participation. The season can be so overwhelming. And I've needed to focus on getting well again, rather than feeling bad about not finishing all my grand plans. The Neti Pot is my new best friend.

Is anyone else having a "meh" holiday?    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing Week: Day Three Reflections

Back in the day, now three semesters ago, one of my courses was focused entirely on preparing our dissertation proposal. We spent the semester writing a draft of our proposal, which was our main grade for the course. I ended up taking an incomplete for the semester (most of us did), to buy a little more time to work on my proposal. Our instructor actually encouraged this, because, as she said, dissertations are not written within the arbitrary deadlines of a semester. Boy, have I proved that to be true...

Needless to say, what I submitted that July totally sucked. It still was not anywhere where I needed it to be at the time. Nor is it there yet.

As I sit here trying to crank this thing out today, it strikes me as interesting to think about what that class prepared me for, and what it didn't. Our professor did a great job of outlining the different sections, what is included and what isn't. For example, no adjectives. None. As someone who LOVES adjectives, you can imagine that this is not just a challenge, but a MAJOR challenge. She also gave us a document outlining the major grammatical errors that PhD candidates tend to make in their dissertations. A good reminder to proofread. And most importantly, she told us, when in doubt, go back to the literature. I have had to do this many, many times.

But when it comes to the things that I wish someone would have explained to me, they are as follows:

You will spend about triple the amount of time thinking about your dissertation as you will spend actually writing it. Maybe I am alone here. Maybe I am just trigger shy. But I find myself having to walk away from my computer a lot. It doesn't mean that my brain turns off, or that I am distracted by something else. In fact, I am usually stepping away to mentally process something I just typed and/or read. I walked to the coffee shop around the corner, and spent the whole trip processing my rationale, and what it would look like if I mapped it via post-its. Then when I came home, I mapped the post-its. I later wandered down to our basement to find a book that I needed, and stood there pondering the concept of "goodness" in qualitative research for about 20 minutes. This feels both productive and unproductive at the same time.

You might spend just as much time reading dissertations as you will writing yours. As I try to piece together what a dissertation should look like, I have found that I learn best by example. As I start to write my key concepts, or some other component of this thing, I find myself having to go back to see how someone else did it. Thanks to those that have shared their proposals with me. I also spend a significant amount of time reading bibliographies to see what others read and cited, and then even more time trying to find those articles.

You will find yourself hitting a peak of productivity right when it comes time to do something else. Ugh. This is annoying. These past three days, I have been the most productive between 1 and 5 pm. I am just finally hitting my stride when it is time to make dinner, or to go look at washing machines, or for date night at the movies (Don't worry Chris, I do still want to see Lincoln tonight!). When what I really need is to just keep writing It's not that I didn't plan my day around these things happening. It's just that I spent my morning mucking through all the crap in my head. And by 4:30 pm, when it's time to roll out pizza dough, I am saying, "Crap. Why couldn't I have been in this awesome groove at 10 o'clock this morning?" If it makes me unreasonably crabby, I apologize. I have a feeling that it is going to be hard to pull myself away to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. Because I just want to read and write about phenomenology. I'll make time for the parade and for eating. But that may be it.

I am thankful that friends that have come before me and other faculty have given some good advice too:

"All diets are off during the dissertation process." - Shelley
-Evidenced by the rows of Oreos that I ate today.

"Write something everyday, even if it is just a sentence." - Leah (via Janelle)
- I am working on this one. I wrote it on a post-it as a reminder.

"Copy someone else's methodology. You are not the first to do this type of study. Don't make it harder than it needs to be." - One of my professors.
- This was not an okay to plagiarize, but an acknowledgement that there are only so many ways to collect data.

"A good dissertation is a done dissertation." - My advisor
- A good reminder to get out of my head and get this ish done. I am not in this for any awards. I do not anticipate a research career ahead of me. I just want to finish.

Many have said what an isolating process this is. It is the one thing in the educational process that you do totally by yourself. So if I seem a little crazy or distracted, it is because my brain is going 100 miles an hour right now, but sometimes it feels like it's going in reverse. Dissertations come with a lot of mind games.

Current page count: 39

Pinterest Project: Tiered Stand

My DIY To-Do List has been growing, with limited time for new projects. Which is hard, considering I just got my copy of Young House Love by John and Sherry Petersik. If you haven't seen it, you need to pick up a copy of your own. Lots of great inspiration.

I had a little bit of time last weekend, and decided to finish a quick project that I had been planning for over a year, based on these inspiration pictures:

From here
From here
From here.
Who doesn't need a functional tiered stand, made from two Target plates and a cheap Walmart candlestick?!

Here is my version, made in 10 minutes with a few glue dots holding the thing together:

Fantastic jewelry holder. And these plates are the inspiration for the new color scheme that I am hoping to make happen in the master bedroom in our place, which is totally blah right now. I am thinking this will be a good project for over the holidays. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Crafting: Santa Wreath

One of my self-imposed rules for Christmas this year is not to go overboard. I love all things Christmas - cookies, decorating, gifts, etc. - but it can get very overwhelming. When it comes to new decorations, I am trying to utilize the ones we already have and make just a few new things. Sadly, this means I didn't buy the gorgeous chevron tree skirt that I found on Etsy. Womp womp. So pretty. I guess I'll just wrap some fleece blankets around the bottom again...

Anyway, my plan for this year is that I can be creative with all of the supplies filling my craft drawer (and wheelie suitcase, and front hall closet...). Which was perfect for making my very own Santa wreath from this Pinspiration!

I already had a skein of red yarn sitting around, and I had purchased two wreath forms from my last wreath project. Which meant that all I had to do was spend some time wrapping the thing with yarn while watching this week's Scandal and Grey's Anatomy on Sunday afternoon, and I was close to finished. I just added a felt belt with a little buckle made from yellow craft foam, and voila.

I love it, despite the fact that Chris told me it was a very nice steering wheel cover... Boo. Definitely an improvement from my last wreath-making experience.

Now if only I could figure out how to DIY my own chevron tree skirt....

Writing Week

My study buddy. He is anything but helpful.
This week is one that I am lovingly/begrudgingly referring to as Writing Week.  I took the whole week off from work to work on my dissertation proposal. Which may explain my stink face when I tell you that I am off this week and you tell me to "Enjoy it." Not exactly.

Rather than enjoyment, what this week really looks like is more like this:

  • Using Freedom to minimize distractions. It may seem silly to have to lock my computer off from the Internet for hours at a time, but going "off the grid" seems to work.
  • Setting a timer for 50-minute intervals of work, with 10 minute breaks built in to do things like taking out the trash, checking Pinterest, etc. There are hour-increments where I count down the minutes until that break time. Who knew that doing the dishes could sound so exciting?! 
  • Opening multiple windows in the house, despite the cold air coming in, to try to distract the cats so that they stop crawling across my laptop and notes, confused as to why I am home. If it means that I have to wear the zebra-print snuggie while I work, so be it. 
  • Eating strange combinations of snacks, most of them not healthy, like the leftover Jack's pizza and mint Oreos with coffee for breakfast. Diets are off during Writing Week. 
  • Staring at my notes for long periods of time, trying to figure out what magical sentence that I can add that will make this thing feel like it is coming together. And/or finding that one citation that I need that demonstrates that I am not making this up because experts have already said it.
  • Finding at least one errand that I can run during the day as an excuse to leave the house.
While this self-imposed week of focus may seem like torture at times, it was necessary to set aside some solid time to work on this thing. Because after a long day of working and coming home to make dinner, it is really hard to want to sit down and write some more. I am hoping to work through large chunks of this proposal this week, so that I can spend future writing time focusing on tweaks and additions.

Here goes. Writing Week: Day 2.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gobble Gobble

Yep, that's me!
One of my favorite parts of working in student affairs is the opportunity to support student events. Sometimes that means sitting in the audience at the Greek Week talent show, while students sing, dance, and make people laugh. Other times it means going out to eat at a restaurant where a chapter might get a portion of the proceeds from my dinner. You know I love food, so I am in.

Yesterday was a first. I was invited via tweet to wear the turkey costume at Tau Kappa Epsilon's Gobble For Groceries, a food drive that they do each November to benefit the Hunger Task Force. The chapter president said he'd donate ten pounds of food if I would come put the costume on. I try to always be a good sport, so I agreed. It might have been hard to walk and breathe, but it was worth the laughs I got from the students, the honks and waves from those driving past, and most importantly, the awareness for their cause. And my ten minutes in the thing was nothing compared to the hours that members are putting in wearing the costume this week to try to raise more donations. I am excited to hear how many pounds of food that they will raise this year.

If you happen to drive down Oakland in Milwaukee, consider stopping at their house and sharing some canned goods. #proudadvisormoment

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Running MKE

You might remember that back in July, I posted about running through the city of Milwaukee. I did this as part of participation in a blogging project, hosted at A Good Run. One of my colleagues, Steve, has a different person run their city each week, and share the experience through a blog post.

My post went up today! I am so excited to share the run that Becca and I did of Milwaukee. We had so much fun, and I can honestly say that throughout my training experience, it was probably my best run. Maybe because there wasn't really a lot of pressure, it was just fun. It was a beautiful day to explore the city.

Definitely check out my post there, and all of the other awesome city tours that others have done. You might just find a new way to explore the next city that you visit!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Counting Stitches

As I sit in the midst of writing my dissertation proposal, you might think I am crazy to try to squeeze in some crafting. With everything else on my plate, why would I take on more projects?

In reality, I find crafting to be great stress relief. In fact, one of the ways that I calm my brain down so that I can get a good night's sleep is by cross stitching. Yes, another new hobby that I have picked up. I grabbed one of these little kits from Walmart a few weeks ago, and found it to be a really easy and relaxing. Minus the fact that I cannot do a french knot to save my life.

All I can focus on is counting while doing it, so I am not worried about those things I have to do at work the next day, or the next sections of my proposal that I want to work on. Counting stitches seems to be better than counting sheep.

Maybe it's a little cheesy. Yes, it is a hobby for Grandmas - my Grandma Ruby has been making beautiful cross stitch pictures for years. But right now, it's easier to pick up and put down than knitting. And it's a better pre-bedtime activity than cardmaking or scrapbooking. Plus it is much cheaper than some of my other hobbies. So it's what I'm doing.

Please let me know if you would like a tiny cross stitch, because I am working on a cupcake right now, and not really sure where I am going to hang all of these things.

: )

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christmas Crafting: DIY Snow Globes

Yes, I realize that Christmas is still a long time off. No, I have not starting decorating my house. I love my fall decorations too much to take them down before December. But December 1st, these bad boys are coming out:

Another quick, fun, as-seen-on-Pinterest project. Snow globes in mason jars. I basically just used some glue dots to fasten some toys, ornaments to the jar lids, then dumped in a bunch of snow-like glitter. Sealed the jar, and dunzo.

I actually first attempted this project a few weeks ago, as a gift for a friend. I made the mistake of adding water to the jar and sealed the thing with Gorilla Glue. The dye in the tree immediately turned the water blue. At first it looked cool. Then it became really cloudy and gross and the Gorilla Glue puffed out and turned orange. Ick. I told her she could throw it away.

Sure, my glitter may not float. It may not be a "true" snow globe. But I still think these things are cute. I may just have to make a few more.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mr. President

Please note that I wrote this post to share the experience I had seeing the president and my excitement about it, not to start a political debate. If you are a Romney fan, vote for the guy. Everyone should vote. While I love political discourse, if you choose to make nasty comments on this post, I will delete them. Just sayin'.

On Saturday, I got to see the President of the United States. My favorite president. Barack Obama.

He was in Milwaukee for a campaign rally, just days before the elections. I was determined not to miss him this time. I saw him back during the last election when he was a candidate, but there is just something different about getting to see the sitting president. It was totally worth getting up really early on a Saturday, standing in line for three hours before the doors opened, followed by standing in the convention center for another two before anyone spoke. He may have only spoken for a short time, but it was totally worth it.

Finally inside after a long wait.

The podium. We were only about 10-12 people back.
The screen behind Katy Perry's stage. I couldn't see her at all when she was performing, but she was pretty good.
MKE Mayor Barrett was one of the many speakers, although none of my other pictures turned out. Always had other people's heads/cameras/signs in the way. #shortpeopleproblems
President Obama!
Take 2!
Chris let me borrow his button.

My thoughts on Obama: He is my president. He is the first person who I voted for, not because he was who my parents were voting for - my mom is a conservative, through and through, which I will admit did influence me the first time I could vote. I voted for him because his ideology most closely matched my beliefs and views on the world. I voted for him four years ago, and I voted for him again last Friday. If I could elect him a third time, I totally would. I truly believe that he is a person of character and integrity, who got into public service to make our country and our world a better place.

No matter what happens tomorrow, he is my president. And Saturday was an awesome experience. Katy Perry was good too.

I just hope that after Tuesday he can get some sleep - the poor guy is running a campaign and a country at the same time. He looks tired.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October Meal Planning Recap/November Plan

Happy November!
So that whole meal planning thing worked really great for week one. Week two - sorta skipped the whole thing. Woops. Hoping to give this whole meal planning thing a second shot in November, attempting to plan for the whole month.

Things that Worked Well
  • I was able to use up some veggies I had on hand.
  • We had guaranteed lunches for the next day, which definitely saved some money.
  • We discovered some new recipes that we liked and would try again - definitely the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
  •  We learned that we need to do better at planning our grocery trips. I can't tell you how many nights that I went to the grocery store this month. Or would discover that we threw out all of the tortillas we had (because who knows when we bought those), and can't make quesadillas anymore. There was one day where we actually made three separate grocery trips.
  • Sometimes when I had a plan for the night, I might get a thumbs down from Chris. Some nights you just don't want what's on the plan.
  • We know that we like to eat out, so it's okay to plan in a few of those nights into the schedule.
Here is my plan for this month. I have a busy few weeks ahead, so you can see that I am planning stuff that I can take with me to work, and there are nights that Chris will be on his own.
  1. Went out to eat for a fundraiser.
  2. Chris made homemade Chicken and Orzo soup - awesome!
  3. Obama Rally - Went out to eat after.
  4. Lemon Parsley Risotto
  5. Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice - since we skipped this one last month and I'm still dying to try it.
  6. Election Party
  7. Chris is on his own. I am pre-making a quiche again, to take with me to work. 
  8. Chris is on his own.
  9. BBQ Chicken Salad (personal made-up recipe) - for a craft night with my sister.
  10. Easy Calzones
  11. Chris is on his own.
  12. Chicken Lettuce Wraps (w/tortillas for Chris)
  13. Rachael Ray's Penne Vodka - Perhaps my favorite recipe of all time.
  14. Honey Chicken with Snow Peas
  15. Taco Soup
  16. Chris is on his own.
  17. Badgers vs. Ohio State!
  18. Meatball Sandwiches
  19. The Lady's Cheesy Mac - Another personal favorite.
  20. Cuban Picadillo - A personal favorite.
  21. Homemade Pizza
  22. Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom's. 
  23. Out and About
  24. Oven-Baked Chimichangas - likely with leftover turkey, am I right?
  25. Family Dinner
  26. Spaghetti/Sauce
  27. Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes
  28. Mini Meatloafs - another holdover from October
  29. Lime and Honey Glazed Salmon/Chicken (This girl needs some fish every once in awhile)
  30. Baked Potatoes with toppings
Goals for this month:
  • Cut down grocery trips with some better pre-planning and communication between Chris and I.
  • Try some new things, but also plan for some favorites - especially during the week of the 19th, which I have declared Proposal Writing Week.
  • Use up the last of the CSA veggies, which include: shallots, butternut squash, red potatoes, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsley, sage, rosemary, parsnips, carrots, celery, spinach, swish chard, green pepper, jalapeno, red peppers, and yellow peppers. Plus I still have an acorn squash and a cucumber from the grocery store. Since I am the sole veggie eater in the house, I need to squeeze most of these in as lunches or sides.
Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: Fall Wreath

It's that time of year again! Sherry from Young House Love and Katie from Bower Power have extended the Fall Pinterest Challenge, and I jumped on board.

Between writing my dissertation proposal, work, and attending Badger games, I haven't had a whole lot of time for anything DIY lately. I have several smaller projects on my To Do list, like Christmas cards and some handmade gifts, as well as a few larger projects, like curtains for several rooms and redecorating our bedroom. Totally reasonable things to squeeze in between a literature review, right?

So this Pinterest Challenge came around at a perfect time to throw in something small, like fall decorations. Nothing too time intensive.

I currently have an entire Pinterest board dedicated just to DIY wreaths. Nevermind that, of course, I have never made a wreath before. But isn't that what Pinterest is for? Taking on new craft ideas, day by day. And really, how hard can it be to wrap ish with yarn?

Here were some of my inspiration pictures:

From I Heart Naptime
From Someday Crafts 
From Etsy
From For Mamas
To keep my costs low, I decided to use some fall yarn that I had leftover from a few other projects, including these knit pumpkins/squash:

Yes, I actually knit these, back in the day.
And these felted nesting bowls:

I grabbed a foam wreath, and got to wrapping. This was the perfect project to do while I caught up on Once Upon a Time and Revenge from this week. It really only took an hour or so. Ta da:

Easy peasy pumpkin wreath. It's cute. I like it. But I will say, I think it needs a little something extra. Embellishments of some kind. Perhaps some felt leaves to add some flourish. A project for another day.

I am already planning ahead for a Christmas wreath. I'm thinking Santa's belt looks pretty awesome.

Check out the Pinterest Challenge projects here: Sherry, Katie, Carmel, and Sarah. Theirs are significantly cooler. Plus, they each have a whole link party. Enjoy!

Back to writing. Current page count: 15

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Timeline

It has begun. What I like to call Dissertation Beast Mode.

On Thursday, I made some decisions regarding what needs to happen to finish my dissertation thanks to the help of a wonderful faculty member. And it started with setting a very aggressive timeline:
  • January - Draft to committee members.
  • March - Proposal to committee/oral exams.
  • May - Begin data collection.
  • October/November - Defend.
  • December - Graduate.
What does this mean? It means that I may be saying no to some other things. I am committed to my current volunteer opportunities, but won't be taking on any more. There may be less fun things on my plate. I may live in the same house as Chris, but we may spend a lot less time together. Sad face. But my reality is that this is the only way that I am going to get it done. I cannot be a student forever. And I refuse to be happy with "ABD." It also means that some of the other 30B430 goals are on hold. Blogging may decrease too. Dissertating kinda has to be a goal all by itself. This is the goal that I care about the most.

Next steps include setting smaller benchmarks. Reading a lot. And writing something everyday. One of the best pieces of advice that I have received is to write something everyday, even if it is only a sentence. It keeps the work fresh in your mind. Which may have been the hardest part of stopping and starting again.

Current page count: 5

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breaking 300

So I missed the big 300th post. It was actually my Hitting the Pavement post about getting back out on the road. Seems like a fitting milestone. (This post is 303.)

But, I thought that hitting 300 would be a good opportunity to share some fun stats from my blog. I'm a nerd. I like data.

Which are the most popular posts? These had the highest stats:
  1. Pinterest Challenge - This traffic is definitely thanks to linking my project on major sites like Young House Love and Bower Power. It saw 596 viewers!
  2. A Change in the Game - This was my post about having to stop training for the marathon. I was shocked to see that it was viewed 243 times. 
  3. Cupcake Fun and a Giveaway - 134 people were excited about that one!
  4. Just a Short-Haired Girl - Who doesn't get excited about a major haircut? 112 views.
  5. Our New Place: First Look! Back in March, I wrote about our new apartment. 91 views.
  6. The Final Countdown - This was the haircut preview that got viewed 89 times.
  7. Guilt - This was a hard post to write about my dissertation struggles. It got shared with either 80 people, or a few of you couldn't help but read it over and over.
  8. Short Hair FAQs - This was a recent post about the transitions to short hair. 74 views.
  9. To the Bride and Groom - My toast to Eric and Maria for their wedding. 67 views.
  10. 27. Find the perfect pair of jeans - Apparently getting a pair of skinny jeans is exciting enough to read 65 times.
Over half of those post are from the last few months, which is fun. Glad to know more peeps are reading my blog.

Which posts typically get the least views? Usually my book reviews. That's okay. I know not everyone is a book nerd like me.

Who reads this ish? The majority of readers are from the United States, but I also have had a number of visitors from Russia, the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Thailand, Brazil, France, and many other countries. So fun!

How do people get here? I thought it would be fun to share some of the things people have been searching for that have brought them to my blog:
  1. old navy rockstar super skinny jeans - sorry folks, not a shopping website!
  2. tooth fairy costume - one of my past Halloween favorites.
  3. homeland tv on netflix - love that show.
  4. alpha phi creed - this warms my heart.
  5. coolest mermaid costumes - another great idea for Halloween!
  6. daughter euro bungy - planning a birthday party, maybe?
  7. easy diy fall decor
  8. fall banner diy
  9. fall pennant banner
  10. gingerbread man costume
If you were searching for one of those things, welcome! Hopefully you decide to come back again.

So that is that. Just a little blog fun.

Happy Wednesday!
(If you were one of the first to read this, it may have said Tuesday....just one of those days.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Planning a Monthly Menu

I love some good takeout, but we really need to start cooking at home...
I am pretty terrible at planning ahead for meals. Most days, I do not really think about what we are going to have for dinner until 6 o'clock, when we are both sitting there hungry waiting for the other person to offer to make something. Which kinda sucks. So I have made it a personal goal to try to put together a meal plan for the whole month - or to start, half the month.

Finding things to make for dinner can be pretty challenging. I can't remember if I have shared this or not, but Chris is a fairly picky eater. We typically have to stick with the basics - meats, carbs, etc. Since he does not eat fruit, vegetables, eggs, or seafood, it can feel like we are lacking variety. But he does let me try to be creative where I can and is usually willing to try something, or pick out the things that he doesn't like. I guess I would rather eat together and have our meals be a little boring, than have us each eating separate food all the time.

So after spending some time on Sunday scouring Pinterest, blogs, etc., I put together the following plan for the rest of this month:

10/15: Chicken with Creamy Corn and Potatoes
1016:  Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
10/17: Crockpot Chicken
10/18: Pasta and Sauce
10/19: Homemade Pizzas
10/20: Football Game Tailgating
10/21: Sunday Dinner @ Mom's
Pesto Stuffed Shells
10/23: Mini Meatloafs
10/24: Black Bean Soup and Cheese Quesadillas
10/25: Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
10/26: Chicken Fried Rice    
10/27: Event
10/28: Chicken Noodle Soup (can't wait to use our homemade stock!)
10/29: Curry Beef with Peas
10/30: Louisiana Style Red Beans and Rice
10/31: Trick O' Treat (may order pizza)

I got some great inspiration from Shannon at Shannanigans - she has been posting her monthly meal plans for awhile. In terms of my planning, my main strategies were to plan for crock pot meals on the nights that I stay late for meetings, account for events where we'd be fed and maybe a day or two where we will want to order a pizza. I also tried to mix up the beef, chicken, pork, and meatless meals - I would love a good piece of salmon or some shrimp every once in awhile, but only if I can make Chris a chicken version. I threw in a few standbys/favorites, like homemade pizza (great because we can each put our own toppings on), good old pasta with spaghetti sauce from the jar, and my favorite black bean soup from Real Simple. I also pulled some recipes that I have been waiting to try, like the Red Beans and Rice. I tried to find things that wouldn't make too many servings - we want enough for lunch, but not something that we are going to get sick of after eating it a few times.

I also started gathering possible future recipes and have them saved as I plan ahead for next month. We will have to keep track of what we like and what we wouldn't eat again. Last night's meal was great for using up some of my last veggies from the CSA basket. I was able to use cilantro, red pepper, and some of our potatoes. And it was a pretty good meal - looking forward to my leftovers today for lunch.

And I cannot wait for the pulled pork tonight! It only added 2 minutes to my morning routine to throw everything in the crock pot, and I expect it to smell pretty amazing when I come home.

If this goes well this month, I am going to try to plan out the full month of November. I am hoping this will allow us to reign in our grocery budget, and the amount of money that we spend eating out.

Do you meal plan? Make ahead your meals for the week on Sunday?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

30B430 Book 28: Therese Raquin

Ahh yes, book #2 of my trip to MN.

I got this book because it was in Audible's "A-List Collection," a series of books read by celebrities. Therese Raquin, written by Emile Zola in 1867, happened to be read by Kate Winslet. Who is going to say no to that?!

Kate Winslet is an amazing narrator. She does great voices for each of the characters, and keeps you interested. Which is good, because I wasn't totally interested in the book. I was kind of over the characters by the end, because none of them are really likeable. I think I would listen to anything that she reads though.

Here would be my brief synopsis of the book:

When Therese is a young girl, she is brought to live with her aunt, Madame Raquin, because her dad can't take care of her any more. Her aunt has a son, Camille, who is really sick all the time. Madame Raquin shelters and spoils Camille, and basically treats Therese if she is just as sick as Camille, even though she is perfectly healthy. The crazy aunt makes them marry each other, and even though Therese clearly hates her life, she goes along with it. Until she meets Laurent, Camille's artist friend, who at first is basically only interested in Therese because he is broke and can't afford prostitutes anymore. They have an affair. They decide to kill Camille, making it look like an accident. They think they are finally going to be happy together, but after they get married, with Madame Raquin's blessing, good old Camille comes back to haunt them. And they go crazy. And now hate and want to kill each other.

Totally uplifting, right?! At first I felt bad for Therese because her life was pretty horrible, but as the book kept going, she was just as devious as the rest.

I actually just found out that they are making this into a movie, which will be released in December. I may check that out. Apparently Kate Winslet was supposed to be the lead for a long time, and then was eventually replaced by Jessica Biel, who was replaced by Elizabeth Olsen. Guess they wanted someone younger. One of my favorites from Harry Potter, Tom Felton, is playing Camille. And Jessica Lange will be Madame Raquin - she'll do crazy well.

So that was that. Only two more books to go!
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