Category Archives: Home life

January 2016 in Review

Days of Note

It was weird to write down notable dates from this month because the only thing notable about the beginning of January was ringing in the new year with my family…and then turning around to come back to our city.

January 12: New England winter bucket list item crossed off: we ate dinner in a beautiful restaurant with huge, wide-paneled windows that overlook a cobblestone street (and the ocean!) during the most beautiful snowfall of the year.  Norman Rockwell would have been impressed.

January 16: A Nor’easter kept us inside for most of the day.  We made beef stew and snow ice cream and enjoyed going for a bit of a walk during a break in the precipitation.

January 18th: MLK Day was a holiday for both of us.  Though we were housebound for three days (see above) the long weekend came at a perfect time.  We did homework, cleaned house, baked cookies and relaxed after the hardest work weeks of the year.  (Coming back from the holidays is rough!)

January 24th: Oss Bed and Breakfast in action!  Friends from out of town crashed here over the weekend.  Even though visiting with us wasn’t the purpose of their trip we got to catch up and hang out a fair bit.

January 31st: Dinner with friends at a new restaurant

On the whole, January was notable for its relatively mild temperatures.  Liam started a new school term at the very beginning of the month so it was mostly work-school-house work for both of us.  I really enjoyed the month at work and it seems like I started to get into a groove by the end of it.

Books read

The 1950’s Kitchen.  This was probably someone’s thesis, but I thought it was a fascinating read.  Granted, I thought there was going to be a little bit more socio-cultural analysis of the role of women in the 1950s but it even as just a discussion of kitchen designs, placement and materials kept me interested.

I tried to read The Husband’s Secret.  I really did!  I got past the first few pages and realized that I was annoyed by the main character and really didn’t care what the husband’s secret was and whether or not he was cheating, which I think is what you were supposed to be assuming at that point.

Miscellany 

This month I taught myself how to crochet!  I’m not saying that I’m very good at all, but it’s really enjoyable to do while watching television, and I think I would like to make a granny square quilt for our next place.  I mean…we could use it in our current place too, but I doubt I’ll finish it any time soon.

On another note, I applied for a few new jobs this month as well.  I love my current job and am very happy there for the time being.  Heck, I only started in October and feel very much like I’m still in the learning phase.  However, it has been several months since I have applied for anything and I like to keep my resume fresh and in circulation.  So I applied for a different job that is very related to what I do now.  Another few jobs that I applied for were part-time retail jobs.  Budget-wise I do not need to work another job, but at the moment I am happy to trade my time for a bit of extra money.  Have I mentioned my ten-minute commute?  That’s a big part of why I have free time.  Also, the downside of renting a furnished apartment is that we are going to need to purchase several big-ticket items once we leave this unit.  It would be nice to not have to use our “normal” money to do that.  More importantly though is that I would feel better with an additional income stream.  Maybe it’s the Millenial in me, but I don’t know that we will ever feel completely secure in our jobs without a bit of extra money coming in on the side “just in case”.

Other than returning to New England there wasn’t any traveling in January. We might try to take a weekend or day trip in February but I’m totally okay with that not happening.  March is going to be crazy busy and February is so short that it’s over in the blink of an eye.

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Month in Review: November 2015

After the massive catch-up at the beginning of the month it’s time to go back to doing these reviews monthly.

November was my first full month at the new job and things started to feel more normal. I have settled into a comfortable routine and I feel like a part of my office rather than just a visiting worker. From both a professional and a personal standpoint I work with a really great group of people. And perhaps most excitingly, I’m no longer the newest person in the office.  I’m technically still the newbie because this person transferred from another site…but it was still nice to be able to let someone else know where the coffee was and which printers are where.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the receiving end of such helpful hints.

For the first time in at least 15 years I dined at the Cracker Barrel this month.  We also tried a poutine place (extra delicious late-night food) and a distillery that are walking distance from our apartment.  There is such an amazing food scene here that it’s going to be a real battle to stick to a meal plan regularly.

Thanksgiving happened!  After work Wednesday we headed up to Liam’s hometown to be with his family.  We had a midday meal on Thursday because one of his siblings had to work that morning and I had to work on Friday and we wanted to get an early-ish start back to our place because night driving and moose don’t mix.

To continue with the food theme of the post, we kicked off the week of Thanksgiving with a potluck Friendsgiving celebration hosted by one of Liam’s acquaintances.  I knew no one and Liam only knew a few people, but it was lots of fun.  And the food was amazing.  I had to laugh because we were in charge of making a vegan recipe and the joke was that we were set up to have the least favorite dish of the night.  (Curried pumpkin soup if you’re curious; I happen to think it’s quite good but it didn’t really go with the non-vegan offerings.)

Now that we are settled I feel like I can get back to enjoying hobbies that I had set aside while we were working toward relocating.  I attempt to become a “good” knitter each winter and this year is no exception.  I’ve been re-learning everything that I forgot over the warmer months and I have also picked up a set of crochet hooks although I haven’t touched them yet. I got my new library card and have been enjoying the vast e-lending library that I have access to as a result.  Though I try to avoid going to the library on my lunch hour (it’s amazingly crowded during the workday) I may have to drop by soon and see whether they have a foreign language children’s section.  I’ve been working on a new language – possibly in preparation of a trip next year and kids’ books are a great supplement to my daily practice.

My Christmas shopping is entirely done, although if we’re being totally transparent the last gift is still on its way to me and all of them need to be wrapped.  But as a result I had the time (and desire) to do some selfish shopping this month.  I was crushed to realize that secondhand shopping is terrible here – especially the thrift offerings.  So I wound up coming home completely empty handed.

And finally, can we talk about the weather?  Forgive the shouting but it’s necessary because WE STILL DO NOT HAVE SNOW.  I think that the northernmost part of the state finally has some in the 10-day forecast but we are looking at the mid 40’s for the next several days.  I’m not complaining but it is so, so weird.  Remind me about this when I’m whining my face off in March, okay?  Maybe when I’m complaining about wearing my winter boots to Easter services.

 

Month(s) in Review: July, August, September, October (!!!) 2015

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Hi.

Remember me?

This summer and early part of fall were fraught with stressors. And there were sad things, too: if you’ve been following along you’ll know a few of my family members passed away this summer. These are the first members of my parents’ generation to pass and it’s frightening in many ways.

Lots happened over the past few months that I didn’t want to dwell on (at the time) or remember in detail anymore. The sinking ship that was my mood and my life (so dramatic) finally righted itself toward the end of September. So, let me start there in catching you up on what has been going on around here lately.

1. We moved! I don’t just mean moved to a new apartment. I mean we moved states. And time zones! And climates (sob). That’s right; this is hello from New England! And yes, I already miss Chicago and its pizza.

2. New job! I was in an okay-but-not-great situation back in Chicago. I had a job that I was able to do mostly from home but that wasn’t related to my graduate degree. I got my new job as a direct result of what I studied in grad school – so, yay! I don’t think this is a permanent position for me (as in, I don’t expect to retire from the office I’m sitting in now) but I do think the job has the potential to propel me to that ‘forever’ job.

3. Job offer! Shortly after I began training for my current position I was actually offered another relatively local job. It would probably have required a move to be feasible in the long-term and it was slightly closer to what I dream of doing but there were a few factors that made the role I stayed in much more appealing. Still, I seriously considered switching and it was ultimately a very tough choice.

4. Interview offer! Immediately after I turned down the second offer I was asked if I was interested in interviewing for a third position. The interview will be later this winter. Job #3 is actually a blend of my current job and the one I turned down so I am going to take the interview if timing works in my favor. (If it doesn’t; no big deal.) I’ve never interviewed from a comfortable position before – I’ve always wanted out of the role that I was in, and I feel like I want that experience just so I’m comfortable the next time the situation arises. And I’m not just taking advantage of the opportunity; this is a job that I would also give serious consideration to if offered.

I typed this up on my lunch break and got distracted by the ocean view from my office. I’m going home to my small, quirky apartment that is walking distance from where I work. We may get lobster rolls while running errands on Saturday. My in-laws will likely come down this weekend for dinner and to see our new place. And though my family doesn’t (yet!) have tickets out here there is discussion of their coming once we start to thaw.  Things are very, very good right now.

Liam also had a very stressful summer at work and that was ultimately what pushed us into trying to relocate as quickly as possible. He is currently debating between two job offers here in New England. Neither are the dream job he thought he would have (something fell through; I haven’t pressed much) but both are good options for him while he looks for the next great match.

And that’s where we stand.  Hope things are well with you!

Sounds like lightening.

 

If you looked at the weather radar during the night of August 18th you would have seen that the worst weather in all of North America was centered over the greater Chicago area. In fact, for a good portion of that evening the most severe parts were centered right over neighborhood.

Right before Liam left work (approximately 5pm) he texted me that our area was in a tornado watch until 10pm. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but at least in Chicago those watches are issued pretty freely – a good thing! – and this was at least the fifth or sixth this summer. Tornados can happen rapidly and without warning (see: Plainfield, IL tornado of 1990) but only under very specific weather conditions.

Liam got home and we had dinner and sort-of forgot about the watch and went about normal evening tasks.

And then.

At 7:22 pm we heard tornado sirens. To me they mean: get in building’s basement and turn on the television. To someone who is experiencing them for the first time and has only the movie Twister as his point of reference for what happens next this was a Very Frightening Thing.

Most of our building headed into the basement and we turned on the local news looking for the weather. I’ve mentioned before that we live pretty far out in the suburbs, and when we were looking for news reports we had to go to a super-local channel to get anything because the main stations hadn’t switched over from regular programming. This was mildly comforting until we looked at the map.

The red cone of danger was centered right over us (seriously – over the nearest intersection!) and extended southeast to my parents’ current home and northeast to the area I grew up in where we still have many friends.

My family has a group text message and as soon as I messaged out to say Liam and I had heard sirens and were in the basement my mom responded that they had heard sirens and were in their own basement as well. My siblings both checked in: one of them was far to the south of the watch and the other said they were in the watch zone and paying attention but that not much was happening.

For 20 minutes we heard lots of thunder and lightening but the sirens weren’t continuous and even the local local weather station signed off their coverage of the storm to go back to regular programming. What i understand is that the sirens went off because there were “winds capable of rotation” very near us but that nothing materialized and they weakened enough to end the watch. I updated the family, we fist-bumped with building neighbors before heading upstairs and settled in to watch the storms. I think this was right about 7:50.

At a few minutes after 8:00 there were more sirens. Hi-ho, hi-ho; it’s back downstairs we go.  If you thought Liam would be more comfortable the second time around you were most incorrect.  However, the overall mood was significantly more joyous this time because there was one really excited bunch of kids who were able to avoid bedtime because of the storms.

This time our sirens stayed on longer and all of the main channels were carrying the weather. There were reports of rotations immediately to our north and south. At some point my parents checked in to say that their area hadn’t heard sirens but were put back under the warning zone for all of three minutes. Our power flickered several times but never went off. We heard a really loud bang of what we thought was thunder. Within the next few minutes the warning either expired or was cancelled because the storm was weakening; I don’t remember which.

At Liam’s request we slept in the family room with the weather channel on just so we’d be aware of what was going on if we were awoken by sirens. I don’t think the poor kid slept for more than 20 minutes at a time that night. Having been through the song and dance a few times before I didn’t really think much about the events of the night except to say a prayer of thanks that there was apparently very minimal damage as a result of the storms.

Being the more rested of the two I volunteered to take our dog out the next morning. I swung our building door open and my jaw dropped open. Lightening struck a tree not five feet from our building. Bark shot off of the tree in all directions, and though it didn’t fall over the tree was splintered into lots of thin strips where the lightening must have hit. It looked a lot like pulled chicken if that’s any sort of helpful reference. Our building does not have a lightening rod (it should!) so we feel very, very lucky.

Liam called his mother when he was on the way to work the next morning to tell her that we were fine, and about the lightening strike. Apparently she and my FIL were watching the weather on the nightly news and my normally very reserved FIL shouted at the tv “OH YEAH…HOW DOES HE LIKE IT NOW!?!??” in reference to our current residence.  We hear you FIL; we hear you.

Cross another item off of the Authentic Midewestern Experience list for Liam because his tornado experience was definitely the real deal.  Luckily there was very little damage that night – I believe about 30,000 lost power and there was some flooding and damage from a few lightening strikes…overall a very quiet night for such a stormy one.

Blood moons, brunch and backyard chores: Easter 2015

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Easter is my favorite, and I love, love the fact that we were blessed with such excellent weather for all of the Easter 2015 weekend.  As usual we spent the holiday weekend with my parents in their newish home.

We all made it to the house by about 7:30 on Friday afternoon and had a small meal of white fish and water then.  (Good Friday is both meat-free and a fasting day for adult Catholics.)  My dad had had a long day and went to bed after dinner was cleaned up.  We then decided it would be fun to teach my mother how to play beer pong.  It was all about the mechanics.  We weren’t drinking; we had water in the cups and were drinking tea…it was the squarest game ever, but also so much fun.  My mother was hilariously excellent (are you sure you never played before?!) even if she did walk up to the table like she was bowling every single time.  Great memories!  And now her friends cannot tease her about how she doesn’t know how to play!

Did you catch the blood moon (early) Saturday morning?  Even though the reports were saying that there wouldn’t be much to see in Chicago we got up for the blood moon anyway and watched it for 30 minutes or so.  The reports were right – there was very little to see, and to add insult to injury there was a cloud covering the moon at the very moment we were at “peak moon.”

After that it was all about doing yard chores around the house.  Most of the landscaping and outdoor furniture is leftover from the previous homeowners and some of it is in rough condition.  We got to work re-screening the porch (truth: this was mostly a boy job), power washing concrete and iron furniture, pulling up weeds and mostly-dead shrubs and adding new mulch to the beds.  Plenty of work remains for us next time, but we really enjoyed spending the day out in the nice weather and helping to fix up my parents’ house.

While we were slaving outside my parents were making homemade pizzas for an Easter feast.  As always the margherita pizza was the favorite.  So simple, but so delicious.  Others included a taco pizza, sausage and onion and an I-don’-t-know-ask-the-boys-but-I-think-they-put-Cholula-on-it that the boys devoured on their own.

Because the college kids had a decently long drive back to campus we went to early mass on Sunday morning and came home to an easy brunch.  Fresh fruit, scones (made the night before), bacon (because, boys), quiche and toast and spreads.  It was decreed that we will do something similar from now on: big dinner on Saturday evening; smaller, lighter brunch on Easter morning.

After brunch we exchanged Easter baskets (candy and socks; the usual) and then took turns heading home. My mom took several pictures of her kids in dressy clothes but other than that the weekend was under-documented.  Must fix that next time!

Day in the life : January 31 2015

I have done a “day in the life” post before but I picked a work day to document.    This time I thought I would capture a normal Saturday for us.  It was actually a lot of fun to jot down notes at random parts of my day, and now that I’m going back and editing this post I already notice a few small things I had forgotten about. Saturday January 31st was a pretty typical one for us. My husband is back in school which means that he spends Saturday and most of Sunday on schoolwork and I am left to entertain myself.

The only atypical things about this particular Saturday were the lovely weather (almost 40!) and the fact that the Super Bowl was the following day which meant I did all of the house chores in one day instead of two since we were headed out to a party on Sunday.

7:58 was the first time I saw on the clock. I finally got out of bed at 8:12 after much prodding from both the husband and the dog. Normally the dog likes to sleep in like me and I have no idea why he flipped sides this particular morning. I think he is annoyed at me because I said he was too chubby for treats right now. #winterpug

I’m currently reading a really interesting novel set in my MIL’s hometown.

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9:25: it is a lovely January day and I took the pup out for a walk around the neighborhood. I snapped this picture because it shows about how much snow was on each lawn (boot for reference :)). This is crazy for late-January in the upper midwest, but we were supposed to get hit with a big storm this evening.

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10:13 back from our walk and time for breakfast. Granola and blueberries isn’t the most filing option I could have chosen but since it was so late in the morning I didn’t want to ruin lunch.

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The next hour or so was a pretty random blur. I called my mom about a recipe, put away laundry and picked up around the house. There was some blog reading in here as well. I am starting to get the sneaking suspicion that Mr. Student is going to want to go out for lunch.

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11:41 I am adulting: tracking our spending for the month. I also have a grocery list going on the side. Still waiting for the student to say he wants a break. I’m ready with errands when he does!

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1:14 leaving the grocery store in search of some lunch. We are supposed to get almost a foot of snow overnight and people were going crazy!!  (ETA: there actually was quite a lot of snow and most schools and workplaces shut down on Monday.  In retrospect I understand the clamor a whole lot better.)

 

1:40: We decided to take a detour on our way home and stop at That Burger Joint for burgers and a game of chess. (I knew L was going to want to go out!) I lost the first one in four moves…and I very nearly won the second game but flaked out at the very end. Chess is not my strong suit.

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2:10: Netflix on my iPad because L decided he wanted to be in the same room as me but I couldn’t make noise 🙂

3:00: My mom called and asked if we would do a few things around their house and around town because she isn’t able to drive right now. So I ran over and helped her out and then stopped by Starbucks on my way back home.

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4:56: More Netflix.  I’m just now starting Parenthood because of all of the rave reviews it has gotten. Gilmore Girls is one of my top three favorite shows and so far Lauren Graham is just as great in this show. I’m going to watch another episode before contemplating dinner.

6:25: My mom called us (again) and asked that we come by tonight on account of the snowstorm that is supposed to hit. That way we will already be here for the game Sunday afternoon and we can help my dad shovel. I adore my parents and enjoy spending time with them. Finding this candy bar was an excellent bonus.  Double bonus: no need to contemplate dinner any longer!

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9:25:  We barely made it to the parents’ before the snow started and I have just gotten in from shoveling and changed into pajamas. More reading with the Chicago Blackhawks on in the background

And there is no picture to show here but at midnight on the dot I was the last one awake and watching the end of the Blackhawks game by myself.  The end.

Book review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up over the weekend because this book has gotten lots of buzz lately and I was curious whether it would live up to the hype.

You need to know one thing before beginning this book: the author is eccentric and self-identifies as such.  If you can get past the fact that some things that she says are really out there (to most people) I think you’ll enjoy the book a lot more.

I expected to enjoy the lessons in this book quite a bit, but not so much the actual reading of it.  I tend to shy away from books that fall into the “self-help” category because I find the writing style to often be tedious.  I have to say that, until the summary pages at the end, this book was very easy to get though.  The end got a little bit preachy and over the top but I suppose that’s to be expected.

This book got quite a bit of buzz in the minimalist blogger circle and even generated some mainstream buzz at the start of the new year.  The basic premise of the book is as follows: the ideal way to keep your home and life clutter-free is to only keep those things that you love, and find a proper place to store them in your home.

You can see how it appeals to minimalists, can’t you?  As an American I freely admit that we surround ourselves with and generally become comfortable with quite a bit of clutter.  I’m not just talking stuffed closets, but also kitchen gadgets, home decor, tools, books, makeup, etc.  I think the American Dream tacitly supports this.  Think about it: self-reliance can be stretched into meaning the need to have everything you could possibly need (who borrows anything from neighbors anymore?).  That’s not to mention the fact that single-family home ownership is seen as the ultimate trophy of being a successful American.

That’s a total tangent, but my point is that most of us probably have a lot of clutter around our homes.  And our schedules, if you think about it.  But that’s not something that Marie Kondo’s book goes into at all.

For the act of decluttering itself, this book is full of helpful-but-not-extreme tips.  Kondo’s opinion is that you should endeavor to clear the clutter out of your house in one go because that will insure that your house never gets cluttered again.  I think there is a lot of validity in that train of thought.  Cleaning house is also a more positive experience when you focus on keeping what you love, rather than focusing on what you don’t like and should therefore give away.

I’m much more of a meticulous organizer than a true minimalist and I agree with Marie Kondo about several of her points: storage solutions almost always mean that you have too much stuff, everything should have a specific spot in your home, and that rooms do feel fresher and lighter when they are less cluttered.  I disagreed with some of her ideas though: emptying out a purse or a tote at the end of each day seems like wasted energy if you’re using it the next day and I can’t imagine keeping my shampoo and shower gel anywhere besides the shower.

It was in the organization section that more of Marie Kondo’s eccentric ideas came out.  For example, she suggests letting your things rest and breathe, as if they have actual spirits that need refreshing.  That’s not for me.  And instead of being thankful to God or another deity for the blessings of her possessions, she chooses to funnel her thanks into the possessions themselves: she thanks her apartment, clothing and shoes for all of the work that they do for her.

In sum, I think The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be a fantastic quick read for anyone looking for the motivation to get cleaning their space.  If you go in prepared to find some of the suggestions pretty bizarre I think that you’ll be able to gloss over those and enjoy the book as a whole.  If you have read it, I’m curious to know what you think!