shhh... it's a secret

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I think I'm in love

that is all

Stephen King ruined my life.

Okay, not really, but he has made it more difficult to maintain a normal, functioning life. I love Stephen King (the author. I don't know him personally and couldn't say one way or the other if I love Stephen King, the person; I get the impression he might be a difficult man to love though, but I digress). I first discovered Stephen King in 7th grade English class... It was a "reading" day (opposed to a "writing" day), and I didn't have a thing to read. And then I discovered Mr. King and have been reading (obsessing over) his work ever since. Seriously, his writing is like crack, and I'd come by it any way possible. I used to "borrow" my older sisters copies, request the new releases for Christmas (because the timing was always right, and the best crack is crack you don't have to pay for. But dammit! Under the Dome was not under my tree this year!), and once, I discovered a very old copy of The Eyes of the Dragon in someone's garage and proceeded to relieve them of it (I really loved that book, and the first time I read it, I borrowed it from our school library, and they tend to charge you money when you don't return their books, so...). Well, to make a long story short (too late.*), I read a lot of King's books and have been for some time now. Moving on...

So, back to the point of this post, Stephen King's books mess up my life. I go through phases (benders?) where I become obsessed and so sucked into his tales that I can't. stop. reading. Right now I'm re-reading the entire Dark Tower series and I find myself counting down the hours until I can crawl into bed and rejoin Roland and his compadres. King's writings change my routines, affect my habits, invade my dreams (click here for proof), mess with my moods and emotions and turn me into an anti-social shadow of a person (was that too severe?). (Sigh) But oh how I love me some Bag of Bones (my personal favorite), Green Mile and Dark Tower. Not all work is created equal though. I can not abide most of his work pre-1984 (which was when The Talisman was published. Good book), but oh, what a sad, sad, day it will be when Stephen King really retires and stops writing for good (not this pseudo-retirement he's currently living).

I wonder if all of King's Constant Readers feel the same?

* For those of you unaware, this is a Clue reference. One of the greatest movies ever. I think I might have to watch it now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

There Go the Eggs! -or- Oh Crap!

As we all know, I just turned thirty this month. I was feelin' pretty freakin' fantastic about it until I saw this fabulous feature on GMA this morning:
90%!!! Well, sonofabitch, way to ruin my day. Here I was, innocently watching the "news" while eating my breakfast and drinking my coffee thinking I've finally gotten my life figured out; I know what I want and how I'm gonna go about getting it, and then bam! Robin Roberts goes and throws me this curve ball. Damn it! What does this mean!?! I was all set to finish my Masters... find myself a job.... slowly stroll into the whole motherhood thing. Now it seems I better tie on my running shoes and get ready to sprint because by age forty only 3% of my little, miraculous, life-creating orbs will be left.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I ♥ Etsy!

I window shop on Etsy all the time! While viewing my Favorites list, I've noticed a trend in the items that have really caught my eye. Apparently, if an item is blue, green, brown, tree, bird or turtle related, chances are, I'm going to ♥ it. Bonus points if it manages to combine any of those themes together. The other night I was searching for unique new wallets and came across these fantastic finds (Note: I realize these items aren't all wallets, in fact, only one is, but getting sidetrack is inevitable on this damn site):

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2000-2009 (a.k.a. my 3rd decade of life)

I’m currently living with a handful of girls in their early 20s, who are all cute little bubbly nuggets of amusement. I especially enjoy listening to them ponder and contemplate their extensive lives and experiences. They’re so worldly, so self-actualized, and their goals are so realistic. Puh-lease! Their lives haven’t even begun yet. I listen to their idealistic aspirations and ideas about the world, and I chuckle inside because, as a highly intelligent woman in her thirties, I am so much more experienced in life than they are. I’ve been slapped (hard) in the face by reality (I think around my 25th birthday), and I’ve come out on the other side a much smarter, more aware, more realistic… more bitter… more defeated… woman. Huh. Maybe I’m not so better off in my thirties. What was I like when I was their age? What was it like to be so bright-eyed and optimistic? I barely remember my twenties. What the hoo-ha did I do in my twenties…? Let’s see…

  • I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Studio Art and became a certified K-12 art teacher, which some might argue isn’t much of an accomplishment, but hey, at least I did it in only 4 years (and if you know the people I know, you would realize that that is a rarity).
  • I accepted the ever-expanding world of technology. Cell phones, iPods, laptops, the internet, Wi-Fi, social-networking…
  • I reconnected with my dad after 6 years of not speaking, but then we became disconnected again, and then we reconnected. We are, once again, disconnected.
  • I became best friends with my twin sister after years of not being her biggest fan for a good chunk of our childhood.
  • I lost my last living grandparent to a very unfortunate accident.
  • I realized my parents and step-parents are aging as they dealt with a hysterectomy, breast cancer, and intestinal cancer.
  • I learned to eat again which leads me to…
  • I gained 30+ pounds, however…
  • I lost 30+ pounds.
  • I resided in 11 different bedrooms in 7 different towns in 2 different states, but none of them felt like home.
  • I discovered a love for wine, quality whiskey and micro brewed beer, on the other hand…
  • I discovered that tequila, vodka and California car bombs are not my friends, which probably explains why….
  • I was in my first (and only) wet t-shirt contest, and probably also explains why…
  • I kissed way too many people I shouldn’t have, and we’ll leave it at that.
  • I had my WORST YEAR EVER in 2005, and the first part of 2006 wasn’t so great either.
  • I was employed in 12 different jobs, quit 9 of them, was laid off from 2, but at least I still have 1.
  • I went off the drug, went on a couple more, but eventually went off those too.
  • I acquired my first sex toy as well as my first self-defense weapon (to clarify, these are two separate items).
  • I discovered my own personal style.
  • I broke a few hearts and had my heart broken.
  • I met a lot of great people that I no longer see, but still think of quite frequently.
  • I learned to accept myself, well, for the most part.
  • I started flossing again.
  • I visited NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Orlando and DC, which, for this mountain girl, were all great adventures.
  • I made art with kids and had a blast doing it.
  • I had 28 different roommates/housemates of the male, female and canine varieties.
  • I applied to, was accepted to and completed a majority of grad school.

Well, not exactly the greatest list of experiences and accomplishments. Glad to know I didn’t drift through the entire decade. Apparently I’ve also wandered quite a bit as well. Maybe I am afraid of commitment, as someone so kindly brought to my attention once, but I lived, and I loved, and I learned, and maybe there’s still some room left for a little bright-eyed optimism.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The big 3-0...

So, last Sunday I celebrated my 30th {gasp} birthday. We started the celebration by ringing in the BIG day with some good beer and some good music at Brittany's Restaurant & Sports Bar. The bar was smokey, the crowd was, uh, interesting, so-to-speak (think middle aged, redneck women out for a night on the town and the men who like that sort of thing), but the music was good. Furious George, a pretty decent cover band, was definitely slumming it that evening. I'm sure they can, and do, play at much better venues. Their set was damn good though, and they managed to play quite a few of my favs while avoiding all the cliche cover band tunes.

On the evening of my actual b'day we had some ice cream cake before heading out to enjoy a yummy sushi dinner at the Ichiban Sushi House. (Incidentally, I was dismayed to discover that ice cream cake doesn't involve any cake. I'd never had it before, or at least not to my recollection, and was rather disappointed. However, considering my egg allergy and the fact that I had pancakes for breakfast, it was probably a good thing.) After stuffing ourselves with raw fish (well, I was stuffed) we hit up the Irish pub, Murphy's, for some beer, football (it was Sunday after all) and some good old fashioned Irish drinking songs. Despite the festive atmosphere we soon bailed because, quite frankly, the service sucked. We wandered over to the Columbia Firehouse for some quiet conversation and, of course, more beer (and considerably better service). The Firehouse offers a nice selection of regional beers, and I wish I could remember which one it was that I drank for the rest of the evening because it was quite good, but alas, I cannot.

We took Monday off (it was a holiday, after all) and headed out on Tuesday to the mountains of West Virginia for some skiing. Yes, I said West Virginia. Why? Lord only knows, but I don't think that's a trip I'll be making again anytime soon. I have to admit though, some of the scenery we drove through was quite impressive, like the Seneca Rocks and the area of the Smoke Hole Caverns, but when we arrived in Davis, WV, I wondered if we had made a very bad decision. Despite the isolation and backwardness look to the place, we did manage to find a really enjoyable place to eat, Sirianni's Cafe. The atmosphere was rustic and comfortable, the service was friendly and attentive, and their attitude was surprisingly liberal and anti-country. The only downside to this place was that they only accept cash or checks, and seeing as we only had about $24 on us, we settled on a pepperoni pizza. It was good, in fact it was so yummy I ate four slices.

After filling up our bellies and picking up some beer, we trekked back to our room at the Canaan Valley Resort. I really wish I had something good to say about our room, but it had to be the must run-down hotel room I have ever stayed in. From the mildewy tub to the water stained toilet and sink to the dysfunctional heater. Let's not forget the total 70s decor, which I'm pretty sure is the last time that bathroom was ever cleaned (seriously, there were spiders hiding in the corners of the shower). The Hickory Dining room was at least attractive enough, the food was okay and the service was decent. After filling up on another pancake breakfast Wednesday morning, we hit the slopes where I was finally able to try out my new ski boots (they were a birthday present for my last birthday). I only get to ski about once a year, so it takes me a few runs before I get the hang of it again (this time it took me about four). I should have avoided the midday break for beer and loaded fries at the bar though. I could only make it down the slopes two more times before I came this close to losing those fries all over the side of the mountain. Overall, the skiing was good. It was midweek so the mountain was pretty empty and the lines at the lifts were nonexistent.

So, how do I feel about turning 30? Well, ever since I turned 29 I've been getting all sorts of reactions whenever I admit my age. Some people responded with groans and asked me if I dreaded turning 30. Others expressed to me that my 30s would be my BEST DECADE EVER. Some even laughed because they just had their BIG day and were estatic to see someone else hit the mark. Me, I have mixed feelings about it. For one, I had expected to be much further along in accomplishing some big life goals. On the other hand, I see turning 30 as a fresh start. Turning 29 felt far much worse. As I have explained numerous times since the BIG day, 29 felt like the end of something, while 30 feels like the beginning. I have goals, I have aspirations and more importantly, I know what I want in life, and I will settle for no less. Most importantly, I realize that if my life is not what I want or expected, I have no one to blame but myself. I have the power, and I have the control to make myself happy, and I feel damn good about that. (Plus, I'm pretty sure I don't look 30 yet. see photo above)

Quick food budget challenge update...

So far I've been able to stretch my $60 worth of groceries over 11 days, averaging about $4.15/day. I'll be hitting the grocery store again tomorrow, and I have my menu all planned out for the next two weeks. Hopefully I will have just as much success this time. I still have food left over from my last shopping trip that I intend on using in my upcoming menus. Here is what's left:

2/3 pkg. English muffins
1/4 tub organic yogurt
1 12 oz. bag frozen corn
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach
1/2 box organic chicken stock
1/2 container quick-cook organic oatmeal

Unfortunately, I could have gotten at least another day out of my $60 shopping trip before hitting the grocery store again, but one of my housemates got pretty overzealous while cleaning out the fridge and pantry and tossed some of my leftovers and a grapefruit. Last shopping trip seemed to be all about skillet meals. This time I'm feeling like some Mexican might be in order.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I ♥ Etsy!

I do. I really, REALLY do. I can literally spend hours browsing this site. I'm addicted, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. My favorites list grows longer every day. Below are some of my favorites of my favorites...
Alfred Hitchcock THE BIRDS Pillow by regansbrain
I suffer from insomnia, and way back when we couldn't afford cable, so, I would spend the wee hours of the morning watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents (gotta love PBS). Maybe that's way I was instantly drawn to this pillow, or maybe it's the colors. Either way, I love it!

  Sea Glass Ring in Sterling Silver - Brown and Apple Green by SMWartworks
I am a huge fan of combining green and brown, which is one of the reasons I love this ring. I also like that the artist only uses sea glass that she herself hand picks from the beaches of Maine. Plus, the ring is adjustable, so no need to worry about sizing! (and the artist is my sister. So...)

Silver Peas in a Pod Necklace by sudlow 
I hate peas. Bleh. They're small and mushy and smushy and just plain gross. But, I can totally get on board with these peas! So sweet and delicate. I love that you can order these necklaces with as many peas as fits your needs!

Wooden Meat Cutting Board with Juice Groove - Hard Maple, large by AdirondackCrafts
New to Etsy, this seller cuts, mills and handcrafts these boards in the heart of the Adirondacks. As a native mountain girl from the Adirondacks, I love to support other born and bred 'Dackers. (and they're made by my stepdad)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My food budget challenge...

In an attempt to eat better and more economically, I am inspired to shop and meal plan more wisely by one of my favorite foodie bloggers, Poor Girl Eats Well (a blog I have been following for almost a year now). PGEW is well known for her $25 Shopping Cart, and while I applaud and admire her ability to exit a grocery store having spent only $25-ish, I am by no means delusional enough to think that I can accomplish the same mind-boggling feat. I, instead, will be working with a $60 shopping cart (which does include a $15 case of beer, a purchase that is entirely necessary as I continue to work on my Master's thesis). I'm not entirely clear on how many meals PGEW manages to create from her $25 trips, but I imagine her pantry is much more well-stocked than mine, thus resulting in fewer necessary purchases. My mission now is to see how far I can stretch my $60 worth of food. Here's what I managed to purchase:

12-pack of Rising Moon - $14.99
2 pkgs. English muffins (one for the freezer) - $5.00
1 32 oz. tub organic yogurt - $3.59
1 12 oz. bag frozen green beans - $1.67
1 12 oz. bag frozen corn - $1.67
2 10 oz. pkgs. frozen spinach - $2.00
1 16 oz. bag frozen sliced peaches - $2.50
1 box microwave popcorn (another thesis-writing necessity) - $3.49
1 15.5 oz. can black beans - $0.89
1 32 oz. box organic chicken stock - $2.59
1 18 oz. container quick-cook organic oatmeal - $2.50
1 14.5 oz. can diced organic tomatoes - $1.50
1 13.25 oz. box organic whole wheat penne - $1.67
1 pkg. chicken sausage - $3.99
1.27 lbs. ground turkey - $3.09
5 grapefruit - $2.99
3 apples - $2.34
1 red onion - $1.04
3 tomatoes - $2.81

It's been five days since my shopping trip, and I have to say I am quite proud of my ability to create quick, tasty, and most importantly, cheap and filling meals. I'm a little over a third of the way through my supply of food (and the beer) and I am quite happy to report that I have been eating very well every day for an average of $5 a day (I already had couscous and farfalle on hand and did not include these in my cost calculations)! I was also able to whip up a batch of my favorite Black Bean Chili (a whopping $1.28/serving!) and freeze 2/3 of it for a rainy day (or more likely a snowy one). At this rate, I estimate my shopping cart to last me at least another five days! Hooray for me!

I am quite enjoying this challenge and since I don't intend on having any kind of livable income for at least another 7 months, I imagine this type of meal-planning and budgeting will be something I continue with down the road.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My New Year's "Resolutions" v.2010

Typically, I'm not the type of person who makes New Year's resolutions. I don't believe that New Years can magically make people more motivated, ambitious or dedicated. I think everyone becomes those things when the time is right for them. That being said, it just so happens that the time is right for me, sort of. Over the years I have come to many different crossroads in my life where it becomes necessary to reevaluate my priorities and reexamine myself as a person. As I enter my last semester of graduate school, I am faced with numerous decisions about what path my life will take. (It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that my birthday this month, the big 3-0 gasp!, is also playing a role in my recent self-reflection.) What goals do I have for this year? What are my career goals? My relationship goals? My life goals? Where, as a 30-year old woman, do I see myself? And how on earth do I manage to find the time this semester to work, complete my research, write my thesis, spend time with my family, maintain my relationship and keep up with the last season of LOST?

Discovering the answers to these questions inevitably leads me to more unanswered questions and bigger life issues to consider. With my head swarming with possibilities and overwhelming feelings of panic I decided to step back a bit, slow down and consider what is most important to me right now. I started making a list of the "little things" I wanted to accomplish and focus on. By no means does this bring me closer to answering those pressing life questions, but it made me feel better to compile this list of goals I can realistically tackle:

1. do a better job of keeping up on world news
2. be more adventurous
3. catch up on tv and movies I've missed
4. listen to more music
6. get in touch with old friends and maintain better contact with family (as in on the phone or in-person, NOT via facebook, email or texting)
7. see people more often (at least once a month)
8. get my butt back into the gym
9. eat more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables
10. drink more water
11. do things for ME!
12. do things for OTHERS! (at least once a month)
13. embrace my decisions and commit to making them work for me, even the not-so-good ones
14. NO LIQUOR (unless I am in the safety of my own home)
15. get in touch with my inner girlieness more often
16. continue to improve myself, career-wise (because a Master's just doesn't cut it)
17. ask for (and accept) help when I really need it

As a Capricorn, it is in my nature to be a strict planner and a highly organized individual. I have, however, over the years discovered that this doesn't necessarily apply to every aspect of my life. There are moments when I am more than content just letting life lead me wherever it chooses without considering the long-lasting consequences. Inevitably though, the controlling goat in me always rears it's stubborn head and insists I take back some control over my life. I'm sure over the next five months I'll manage to solidfy my long-term goals and move in a direction that will allow me to accomplish them... or not. As for right now, I'm going to continue to work on what makes me happy, try to figure out how to balance my immediate priorities and hopefully manage to keep my Tuesday nights free.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some holiday reflection

The holiday season has come to an end and for the first time in many, many years, I'm sorry that it is over. Usually around mid-October I begin experiencing holiday related panic attacks, stress headaches and night sweats (alright, maybe not the night sweats, but you get the idea). After the holiday season of '08, however, I vowed to do things differently this year. I wanted a relatively relaxed, peaceful and stress-free holiday experience, and for the most part, I'm happy to report that I accomplished just that! So what was my magical solution? What mysterious remedy did I discover to banish holiday related stress? Well, I didn't buy a single Christmas present this year. Not one. And I didn't feel the least bit guilty over it.

As the years move on, and my immediate family gets older and continues to expand, the number of gift recipients keeps multiplying. I have four sisters and a brother and when you add in their significant others, their children, parents and step-parents... you can see how quickly things can get out of hand. This year I declared, NO MORE! Now, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit this decision wasn't entirely made as a result of my gift buying frustrations. It just so happens I'm in graduate school finishing up my thesis and trying to survive on the measly income I receive as a graduate assistant. In other words, I'm dead broke, which contributed significantly to my inability and unwillingness to purchase Christmas presents this year. I very well could have used my {gasp} credit cards to buy some holiday joy for my loved ones, but I didn't. (I am quite proud to say that I have 0 credit card debt, thank you very much)

In place of gifts I decided I would spend more time with my family and help them out with their holiday stress as much as I could. BEST. DECISION. EVER. I have never felt better about myself nor the holidays than I did after helping my mom wrap Christmas presents, or after staying with my sister for a week and helping her in any and every way she needed (she had three boys, all under the age of 5 and fueled up with Santa-fever, to manage), or after preparing an entirely homemade, from-scratch Christmas dinner for 12+ family members. Never has a last-minute, purchased gift, wrapped in over-priced paper made me feel as generous and giving as I did this year. I felt useful. I felt appreciated. Most importantly, I felt a renewed love and joy for my family that I haven't felt in years.

Will I buy Christmas presents next year, when grad school will be over and I'll be (hopefully) employed full-time? I don't know. I do know that if I do, I will put more time and thought into my gifts rather than rush through the stores, carelessly checking people off my list. I also know that I'm going to take more time for my family and offer to help them out as much as I can.

Happy New Year!
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