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26 December 2012

Big steps

Today I did something I never thought I would ever do...

I filled a large bin full of shoes and will be taking them to Goodwill soon.

I love my shoes. Choosing 15 or so pairs to give away was challenging but necessary. So I'm pretty proud of me. 

Welcome home

Well, the moving process is halfway over. JD and I moved all of my things out of the small apartment on Friday (with the wonderful help of three wonderful men!). We were actually all done unloading at the new place by noon on Saturday, so I got to spend most of Saturday unpacking and setting up house. JD calls it "nesting." It always amazes me how quickly unpacking goes and how slowly packing goes. Despite spending a lot of time with the JD's family over the Christmas holiday, I was able to get almost everything unpacked. The only things that remain are decorative things and my books (which, because I have to alphabetize them by author in national groupings, takes more focused and patient energy), so I'm feeling pretty well settled in.

Today we cleaned and vacated the old place, and tomorrow we drive to Charlotte to get all of JD's things and start the unpacking all over again. Hopefully we'll be celebrating the New Year in a settled and comfortable home. In the meantime, here's what the new digs look like...

Our kitchen. I love the over-cabinet space for all my pitchers and vases and whatnots. 

More of the kitchen. 

The wine rack/dining area. Pardon the mess. And the dog bowls. 

The Master closet. We are actually able to split the space!

No MB moving post would be complete without the mandatory shoe photo. 

The Master bedroom ... complete with dogs. 

My Master bath has a garden tub!

This will eventually by my dissertation writing/guest room.

The guest bath

I didn't include photos of the office or the laundry room or the living room because they are pretty much in shambles. They'll get pulled together in the next week or so, I promise. 

Even though we're still not completely settled in, it already feels like home. While I'm farther away from some dear friends than when I lived in the old place, I think this is a good move for us. The kids love the big back yard (fenced in!) and having a garage is nice, too!

Funny story ... as we were unloading the moving truck, four little neighborhood kids came over to say "hi!." They were all under the age of 8 and there were no parents in sight (which concerns me more than a little). Immediately after saying "hi!," they said, "Can we play with your dogs?!" I had no idea that they even knew we had dogs! Apparently word spreads fast in the cul-de-sac. Then, on Christmas Eve, on of the little girls knocked on the door and handed us our mail. She was very excited that it had been delivered for us. 

I'm thinking some boundaries may need to be established in the future...

But, either way, home sweet home. arou

19 December 2012

Something to blog about

I've been a minimalistic blogger these past few weeks due to a multitude of chaotic things happening around, namely a massive move which begins on Saturday. Because of moving over the holidays, I had pretty much discounted the decorations, the presents, the rituals, and, most importantly, the tree. I was okay with that because I knew it was for a greater purpose -- getting settled in a bigger and better place that would better meet our needs. The lack of sensory Christmasy-ness (the smell of an evergreen, the twinkling of lights, the festive decorations ...) made me a little sad, but I had come to terms with it.

As a surprise today, JD wanted to get us a Christmas tree for the new place. We have NO furniture in the new place, but we have a Christmas tree. Fully decorated. It was a wonderful surprise, and it really made my day. And I completely put me in the Christmas spirit. I know it's superficial, but a Christmas tree is what signifies the Christmas spirit for me. I still prioritize attending mass and recognizing the purpose of this season, but the tree really kicks it all off. For JD to think about how much it means to me to have a tree and want to make sure we have one means so much to me.

As of now, it's Christmas at our house!

Our beautiful tree.

The dogs begrudgingly posed. You can barely see Pickles. 

11 December 2012

Bad blogger attempts to catch up

As I wrote before, I've been a bad blogger. Life has been very busy, and I haven't made blogging a big priority right now. In all honesty, in the ranking of important things happening right now, blogging doesn't really make the list. My life is in a huge state of transition right now, and balancing all that chaos with blogging doesn't really happen all that well. In all honesty, I'm treading water right now and regular blogging would be just enough weight to push me under. But I have a few moments now to do a quick catch up of events. So that's what I'll do.

Thanksgiving - JD and I traveled home to CNY with Bailey and Pickles for Thanksgiving last month. It was the first time I had been home for that holiday in 7 years. It doesn't seem like it had been that long, but it has. Seeing how big all my nieces and nephews had gotten was confirmation of that fact. The last time I was home for Thanksgiving, my youngest nieces were toddling or just out of that stage. My oldest nephew is now in college and drives. So does his little sister. All of the kids were old enough to feed themselves and even sit alone at the kids' table. Time certainly has passed quickly.

As always, the food was great. I've missed the chaos and indulgence of Thanksgiving at home. I'm pretty sure JD's experience was pretty different. As everyone talked (often rather loudly) at the Thanksgiving table, he ate in relative silence. Apparently southerners don't talk at Thanksgiving; they just eat. Either that or he couldn't get a word in. Which is highly probable. But having everyone gather together to talk and laugh over good food was pretty great. Especially since I won't be home for Christmas this year (see next section). I needed that dose of family. Momma made me traditional Christmas cookies and treats that we were able to bring home with us. I've got lots of pictures, but they aren't getting up here anytime soon.

JD spent a lot of time with my dad and brothers which was really important to me. I love that family -- even mine -- is really important to him. I've realized over time that this is essential in a successful relationship for me. I adore my family and love the time spent with them (and I love the time spent apart as well), and it is really important for me to be with someone who has the same values. JD certainly does, and he really loves my family (or is a great actor). Having him around my family feels natural and comfortable. It's all good.

Moving - Speaking of JD, we are in the midst of moving. We've known from the get go that we were going to move and we wanted a bigger place. Sadly, the timing of the move really sucks. My lease expires on the 31st of December (what was I thinking when I did that?), so we'll be moving over Christmas break. It actually works well in respect to having the time to move -- I've got almost two full weeks off -- but it is horrible in the respect that it means we won't have a tree or other festive decorations. Plus, we'll be moving twice. My apartment will be moved on the 22nd and all of his stuff in his storage unit in Charlotte on the 29th. At least there is some unpacking time between the two moves so we can start to settle in.

The new place is pretty great. It has a decent back yard that is fully fenced, perfect for the three pups. There are hardwoods on the first floor and three decent-sized bedrooms upstairs. It will be nice to have an office and a separate guest room. We'll have our first guests on the Charlotte moving weekend (JD's dad and step-mom), and my mom and my niece have already made plans to come and visit. Having some outdoor space and a lot more space inside will be pretty awesome. We're increasing our living space by about 500 feet. While it doesn't seem like much, it makes a huge difference when you've got three crazy dogs running around. One of the greatest things about this house? We'll be about five minutes from JD's brother's family. It'll be fun to see them more often and have family dinners on a regular basis.

Dissertation - It goes slowly. I applied for an additional extension (hopeful graduation will be May 2014), making my grad school experience a 9-year adventure. Good God, that's ridiculous. Anyway, working on the diss with everything else that goes on in my life is challenging. I definitely need to be better about setting a schedule and sticking to it, but I've also got a lot to balance with work and everything else. I also haven't had a desk to work at (other than the one in my classroom) since late September, and that makes productive work impossible. I've got a deadline for a chapter on Saturday, and I've made some really good progress. The first draft was about 10,000 words and was ripped apart by my committee. They wanted more analysis and critical engagement and revision. I've written an additional 4,000 words and still have more to go. I feel much more confident about these changes, and I'm actually excited about submitting it on Saturday. Once this move is over, I'll be establishing a pretty rigorous writing schedule in my fancy new office.

Christmas - Not being home for Christmas is hard. There is no other way to put it. Christmas is my most favorite time of the year, filled with family and joy. I love attending church during Advent and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I love the smell of pine and the twinkling of lights. I love the shiny wrapping paper and the sound of carols and Christmas hymns. I love being with my family and sitting around the Christmas tree together, just being with each other. I'm certainly going to make the best of the holiday this year and focus on the excitement of moving to a new place and starting a life with JD and our furry kids. I'm also going to start some traditions this year that we can celebrate every year to come. I'm attempting to incorporate the heritage that JD and I have into some established cultural traditions that we can enjoy. He's Scots Irish and English and I'm a lot of things, mainly German and Dutch. So I'm pulling from those. I've already started with St. Nicholas' Day on December 6th. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated in different European countries, primarily in Holland and Germany. Apparently all the kids and JD were good this year because they all awoke to special surprises. St. Nicholas brought Pickles and Bailey carrots and bones with peanut butter. JD got a bag of sweets and some coffee. We'll be lighting a candle and leaving it in the window on Christmas Eve to light the way for the Holy Family and to invite them into our home. (I'm not sure on the logistics on this one since it will leave a candle lit overnight.) Once the move is over, I'll be baking a Dundee cake (a tasty Scottish fruit cake) on Christmas Eve to be enjoyed after Midnight Mass ... along with champagne. We'll of course celebrate Epiphany (little Christmas) on January 6th with little presents. And I'll be attempting an authentic King Cake then as well. (I'm debating on whether to make it French style or NOLA style.)

So that's what's going on here. Once the move is over, I'll try to be back to regular blogging.

Pinky swear.

03 December 2012

Bad blogger strikes again

I've been a very bad blogger. I haven't blogged in over two weeks despite the significant amount of insanity and general craziness happening. Here's what I haven't been blogging about ...

- Thanksgiving in NY ... my first Thanksgiving at home in 7 years and JD went with me
- Moving woes accompanied by having-no-place-to-live woes
- Typical dissertation woes
- Generalized away-from-the-family-Christmas anxiety

Since the latter three items won't be going away anytime soon, I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write about them. I have some burning thoughts about Christmas and the holidays this year that I would love to write about (if for nothing else than the therapeutic effect of writing), so I'll try my best to get something posted in the next few days.

15 November 2012

More chaperoning fun

This week I had the opportunity to chaperone yet another 8th grade trip. I've chaperoned this one before (way back in 2010), so the Jamestown/Yorktown/Mount Vernon/Monticello sites are familiar to me. But it's still fun to hang out with the kids and see really cool historic places. Thankfully the weather was fantastic (with the exception of a four hour stretch of torrential rain driving up 95) - sunny and blue skies but chilly.

As always, I took my camera and snapped a ton of photographs. Well, more accurately, only about 250 photos. But, given I haven't done much photography in the past few months, 250 is a TON.

The park benches at Jamestown.

I always love the ships at Jamestown. The masts make great photography subjects.

A really cool flag shot.

Ready? Aim. Fire! The musket demonstration at Jamestown. 

Soldiers' spoons at Yorktown.

This is totally going into my laundry room someday. 

The dyer exhibit at Yorktown.

Sheep!! At Mount Vernon.

And cows, too! Or, more accurately, bulls.
These boys totally wandered over and posed for me. 

Best cow picture. Ever.
Kiki, you should paint this. 

Part of the slave burial ground memorial at Mount Vernon.
I love this. 

The stables. 

Overlooking the Potomac.
George Washington planted that tree. 

The lower garden at Mount Vernon.

Mulberry Lane at Monticello.

Winter gourds.

Thomas Jefferson used to sit here and think.
I could totally do that. 

Terracotta pots keeping plants warm. 

A good place to sit and think. 

Beautiful vistas at Monticello.
I love this trip. I enjoy seeing where our nation's fathers lived and worked. Mount Vernon's simplicity is charming, but I love the gadgety and techy feel of Monticello. While Washington was by far a better more genuine man, Jefferson's ingenuity amazes me.

Next stop? NY for Thanksgiving! My first Thanksgiving at home in 7 years!

04 November 2012

Pancake Muffins

I saw some pancake muffins on Pinterest and, of course, forgot to pin it. But I figured it wouldn't be too hard to put together, so I attempted it this morning. My trial-and-error attempt worked out okay, but I'll definitely make some changes next time. 

I made my typical pancake mix and placed cupcake liners into  a muffin tin. I filled the bottom of each liner with mix and arranged various tasties on the thin layer of mix: sliced strawberries, bananas, and bananas with a dollop of peanut butter. I wanted to make a few with sausage and bacon, but I figured I'd give it a try first and then see what happened. I then poured more mix on top of the fillings until the mix was about 1/2" below the liner top. I popped them in the oven at 350 for about 14 minutes and then they were done.  They looked super tasty!

Before ...
On my plate. 

Here are my problems with this attempt ...

First - Next time, I won't use liners. I'll simply grease the muffin pans. While the liners made clean up easy, they DID NOT like to come off the pancake muffins clean. When I peeled the liners off, they made the pancake muffins a little ugly. And I like  my food to be pretty. :)

Second - I want to use a thicker pancake mix in the future. This mix was a little too runny, and I think a thicker mix would yield better results (visually, of course!). 

Third - My strawberries were a little sour. I was tempted to add a touch of honey to those muffins, but didn't. On retrospect, I think that might be really tasty. Or even brown sugar. 

All in all, they were pretty tasty. Especially when I added some of my NYS maple syrup on top. I think these would be great for a brunch or a breakfast gathering ... if I can get the liner-muffin pan thing figured out. 

Playing dress up

For the first time in more than 10 years, I dressed up for Halloween this year. I was convinced to do it by JD and Sheila, but, I will admit, I had a good time. We dressed up and went out on Glenwood to enjoy some good food, good music, and good drinks. I was a flapper, and JD was mountain man. Sheila was Pocahontas. The best thing about my costume is that I own pretty much everything for it and only had to buy a plastic cigarette holder, sequins, and feathers (for my headband). JD had to buy some (hideous) plaid as well as assemble an ax for his costume. 

JD working hard on his ax. 

JD and I in costume, showing off our accessories.
Pocahontas turned pirate halfway through the night. 
Me and my boo. 
It was actually a lot of fun despite my hatred of the holiday. We'll see if we do it again next year.

03 November 2012

A Sunny visit

Today JD and I drove up to see our pup in boarding school. She's been there for over a month, and we haven't seen her since we dropped her off! While the house is quieter without her, I miss her like crazy sometimes. Her goofy 9-month-old behavior, at times exhausting, is adorable. And I miss her unconditional love and affection. The other two kids at home are a little more fickle. Sunny? She just wants love in whatever way you are willing to give it. Of course, if you choose to give it with food, she loves it even more. 

The first month of training is focused on obedience with some hunt training mixed in. When we dropped her off, she couldn't sit. Not wouldn't sit. But couldn't sit. No matter what we did at home, she absolutely refused to ever let her bum touch the floor. I was convinced that there was something wrong with her legs that prevented her from doing so. But she's just strong willed. VERY strong willed.

When we got to her "school," she showed us how she could sit, stay, heel, and retrieve. It was amazing! The next month will be focused on some more intensive hunt training, but I'm totally impressed with what I saw. 

Isn't she pretty?

I was really worried that she would forget me. It's been a month and we hadn't seen her at all. But, as soon as she saw us, it was clear she remembered us. Her little tail was wagging so hard that she couldn't sit still. Of course, when I pulled out the treats, she almost turned herself inside out!

She's so excited
One of the best parts of the visit was the box o' puppies that was there. Two weeks ago, one of the hunting dogs that the trainer owns had 12 (twelve!!!) puppies. And now they are all in a box o' puppies. They were soooooo adorable. Almost made me want to get one. Almost. But not quite. 

31 October 2012

Homemade doggy treats!

With a house of three dogs (but only two at the current moment. Yellow Dog is off at boarding school.), it's always a challenge to find tasty treats that aren't filled with garbage that are also affordable. Too many of the dog snacks out there are just gross. And, in my quest to be domestic, I've been wanting to make some homemade tasties for the kids. I found a recipe for Pumpkin Peanut Butter treats (on Pinterest, of course!) and tried my hand at them last night. As soon as I started prepping these bad boys (original recipe found here), the kids were in rapt attention. It's like they knew that I was baking something for them. 

The recipe is super easy. All you need is:

- 2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 C pumpkin puree
- 3 Tbsp all-natural peanut butter

Add all the ingredients into your stand mixer and, using the dough hook, mix on low until blended. Once all the ingredients are "wet," turn the mixer onto medium high for a few minutes. The dough will be a drier dough and will most likely be in multiple large balls. Take the dough out and shape into one large ball. Roll out to a 1/4" thickness as you would cookies. I used small heart-shaped cookies that made about 1" cookies. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before letting the kids dive in. They'll be chomping at the bit!

They are so cute!

The kids waited not-so-patiently while the cookies baked. There was a lot of death-staring and whining and pacing back and forth while they baked. They were often standing in front of the oven and staring (which, of course, I couldn't grab a photo of) which was absolutely adorable. I've never seen them behave this way.

Pickles looks innocent, but he was the biggest whiner of them all!
Are they ready yet, Mom?
The kids loved them, but I'm curious as to how long they will stay "good" given that there are no preservatives  But, given that they love them so much, I'm not sure if that'll be an issue. 


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