Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday Link

Okay, I apparently can't post a link everyday. I've been slightly obsessed with a project I'm working on and it's soooooo easy to let things like this slide. The good news is that I've finished "phase one" and awaiting directions for the next part of the project.

The other good news is that I've been asked to sub this afternoon and all day the school where I just spent six weeks! In fact, I'm working in the exact same position, which means I'll get to work with the same kids. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

Today's link is to This Young House, a home renovation website run by two younger professionals. Even thought I'm fairly certain G and I won't be undertaking any major renovation projects any time soon, it's still fun to read about their work and their ideas. Check it out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Update

Maybe I can manage to post a link to an article or a website I think are interesting each day until I'm done with this "little" writing project that's currently consuming my life. We'll see...

Check out Google's map of the Swine Flu outbreak. Awesome!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I've been busy, busy over the past few weeks...and the week ahead is packed with excitement, too. Okay, it's not really packed with excitement, but I'm going into preliminary exam mode. This means limited internet access and contact with the outside world until I've completed my current project.

Until I'm back (which shouldn't be too long, hopefully...) spend your time learning about the Stockholm Syndrome by clicking here and then here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Things I Like: America's Test Kitchen

In the past, I've subscribed to two publications put out by America's Test Kitchen: Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated. ATK recently came out with this cookbook, which sounds like it would be perfect for us. I know there are at least a few "cooking for two" cookbooks on the market, but given my high level of satisfaction with the recipes and writing in the ATK publications, I think this one might be particularly good. It's already on my wish list.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

House Hunting: Likes and Dislikes

Factors we’re considering in our house search:

Location: We want a location that is within reasonable distance of where G works, and is close to Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We’re assuming (fingers crossed) that I will eventually end up working somewhere in the metropolitan area and we would much rather have me commute from a more central location than somewhere on the fringe on the metropolitan area. Plus – and I have to admit this came as a bit of a surprise to me – we both like older, established neighborhoods (an older home that has been recently renovated but offers the character you’d find in a pre-1945 home would be perfect for us). They have character and they often offer a strong sense of community. Since we’re planning on growing our family within a few years, we also are paying close attention to school districts and resources the neighborhood will offer for children (schools, parks, libraries, etc.). Sidewalks are also important to me. This point may seem mundane, but I’ve read enough about them and experienced life with and without them to know that I want sidewalks in our neighborhood. We’d also like a home that’s close to public transportation.

We’ve identified at least one ideal neighborhood, but I’m not going to name it here. Apologies!

Price: You don’t have to worry about us committing to mortgage payments that stretch our monthly budget. We try to make economically judicious decisions on a daily basis – we won’t be investing in a home that will give us major financial stress.

Type of Home: I’ve always loved bungalows, and G said he’d like to check some out. We’re open to housing style, but not big fans of most housing styles post-1960s (especially split levels that look like this (although the colonial is okay), this, or this). I’d be thrilled to live in a home resembling one of these. We need at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We won’t be flexible on that front. We’re open to minor renovations (I am actually looking forward to them), but not looking to invest time and resources in any immediate major overhauls.

A quick list of things I think it would be terribly difficult to convince me to compromise on:
• Artificial siding
• Evidence of smoking
• An unfinished basement
• A galley kitchen
• Fake shutters (shutters that are/were functional are okay)
• Garages that “eat” the front of the house
• Poor window placement (I know this sounds picky, but it drives me nuts (I blame my father
for this))
• Minimal storage space

We may have found a Realtor. She plays in our band with us (in G's section), but we haven't talked to her about our house hunt yet. We're going to see if we can do some background research on her before we initiate a conversation...

This post isn’t anything that I intended for it to be, but I’m tired. I had to touch those blasted lids again today and I spent most of my time hanging out with second graders. While I loved working with them, it was exhausting. I didn’t know double digit subtraction could be so tiring.

At least I stuck to my promise to post about our house search on Thursdays, right? Right. Next week will be better. I hope. Anything you want to know about? Anonymous suggestions are appreciated.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jillian the Enforcer

I spent some time with Jillian last night. Although I've spent time at the gym over the past few weeks, I've put off her intense training sessions due to the nagging symptoms of my cold (my wheezy cough can go away any day now...). It was rough. Punishing, in fact. Her workout was a reminder that even though these cookies were easy to bake, eating them was a really bad idea. The pain that radiated in my thigh muscles in combination with her reminders of the importance of a healthy diet made me feel really guilty about the five cookies I consumed that day (they are really, really good). I suppose having someone make you feel guilty is okay - especially if you stray from a diet and exercise routine you've committed yourself to...

Jillian's No More Trouble Zones is great for mixing up your regular routine. It's a lengthy dvd, but is divided into five minute segments that focus on particular areas of your body. While the entire dvd is great, I really like the last three or four routines.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Report Card 9

Today one of the teachers I assist asked me to randomly distribute lids into five groups for an upcoming lesson. I agreed and was handed a giant garbage bag filled with lids that kids had brought in over the last three weeks. That means that the lids sat in a tightly closed bag for all of last week (spring break). When I opened the bag to start my project I was instantly overcome with a stench so powerful it made my nose start running and my eyes water. What followed was thirty pain-filled minutes of lid sorting. I touched lids so filthy, crusty and stinky I thought I might gag. I could have seriously used a pair of rubber gloves, but there were none to be found and the job had to be done (um, should the kids really be touching those filthy things?), so I plugged along. It was absolutely disgusting.

After I finished the task I washed my hands - I'm being completely serious here - for a solid two minutes under hot water with lots and lots of soap. I still don't feel clean.

Menu Monday

Is this the the healthiest meal plan I've put together? Absolutely not. But it's not horrible...and all of the meals are easy and things we like! By the way, the smoothies we made for breakfast last week offered a perfect start to our days. They're really good and taste awesome. They're also really filling. Try them (with a little less OJ than the recipe I linked recommends)!

Lunch: Leftovers (we ended up going out for Indian last night with friends instead of going to Tommy Chicago's - it was fabulous)
Dinner: Something we like to pretend is healthy: tater tots topped with organic refried beans, tomatoes, cheese and salsa. We know it's not the healthiest dinner in the world, but we love it and we're pretty sure it's better than this.

Breakfast: Peach and banana smoothies, peanut butter toast
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich (Last week I managed to screw up the eggs - hard to do, but I still did it), yogurt, organic chips and salsa, cookies
Dinner: Leftovers from Sunday

Breakfast: Peach and banana smoothies, peanut butter toast
Lunch: Same as Monday
Dinner: Whole wheat spaghetti with turkey sausage tomato sauce, garlic bread, beans

Breakfast: Peach and banana smoothies, peanut butter toast
Lunch: Same as Monday and Tuesday
Dinner: Same as Tuesday, but with peas (don't tell G - he hates peas, but he'll eat them if he doesn't know they're coming)

Breakfast: Fiber One Cereal
Lunch: PBJ, rest the same as earlier in the week
Dinner: Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

Breakfast: Fiber One Cereal
Lunch: PBJ, rest the same as earlier in the week
Dinner: Whatever my parents are eating

Breakfast: Fiber One
Lunch: Whatever my parents are eating
Dinner: Ditto lunch

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Last night, after what seemed like the longest bus trip back from College Town, we went to a sporting goods store to see if I could find a tennis skirt on sale. While I was looking through the racks in the women's section, my husband, whom I thought had been looking at rackets, suddenly appeared holding a pair of gray Nike tennis shorts and an orange polo shirt. He held them out in front of him, told me he liked them, and asked if I liked them (and I did!). This was a momentous occasion because it marked the first time EVER that he had picked something out without any encouragement and he wanted to buy it.

I was shocked.

In fact, I was in disbelief. I even asked him if he was serious. An orange shirt? For real? I think he only has one piece of clothing with orange in it and he only owns it because it was a gift.

But he loved it. I have never seen him so excited about clothing. I told him he should go ahead and buy it, but he decided that he couldn't justify paying full price. Now I need to track down the outfit again and write down all of the specs so I can buy it when it does go on sale. I mean, this is the one outfit the guy - the tennis champion, I should add - has ever wanted it. He's still talking about it today. I think he should own it, don't you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I've been at my university grading exams since Wednesday afternoon. The format changes for each exam and I never know what to expect (as far as how long the grading process will take) until the stack of 180 (give or take a few) are sitting in front of me. This one was a doozy. I graded short essays until late last night and am now making significant headway into the multiple choice. I will definitely finish in time to catch my bus back home tomorrow.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cute Cake Pops

I want to make these. First, however, I need an occasion. Don't they look fun? And cute? And yummy? You can find the directions here. If you make them promise to invite me over to help. I think it's a two person job.

Edit: Oh my, Bakerella has just posted Easter versions of her cake pops on her blog. Aren't those spring chickens cute?!

House Hunting: Finding the Right People

I think it’s fair to say we’re actively beginning the search for our first home. We haven’t discussed potential mortgages with any banks yet (we plan to do this soon), but we have set up an appointment with a financial advisor. It’s basically a meeting to discuss our financial future, but he’ll also be able to provide us with some good advice as we begin our house hunt. That way we’ll be more educated when we meet with potential lenders. We like to make smart decisions (who doesn’t?) and we want to go into the meeting with our A-game.

I didn’t have a problem identifying a financial adviser to help us navigate the early stages of our house hunt, but I have no idea how to find a good lender. Any advice?

It would make sense – I think – for us to start by picking a reliable establishment. One, for example, that hasn’t been in trouble in recent months. Choosing our current bank is probably our best option, but finding an individual within the bank is where it gets tricky. I read somewhere that choosing your lender is as important as choosing your Realtor. What qualities do you look for in a lender? Is it reasonable to interview several potential lenders who represent the same bank (because that’s what I think we’re planning to do when we look for our Realtor)? What questions do you ask them? Is it reasonable to bring your parents with you to the meeting? Just kidding about that last question, although it would be really nice to have some people who have experience working with lenders in the room with us to offer their good guidance.

It’s much easier for me to think about the qualities we’re looking for in our Realtor. We obviously want to work with someone who clearly understands and represents our interests and needs. I don’t think I’d have much tolerance for someone who tries to make us compromise on what we consider really important. Personality will also be important. The more aggressive, the less likely we’ll choose him/her to be on our house hunting team. We’ll also want someone who offers honest, well-informed opinions about properties – someone who knows the materials used throughout the home, information related to renovations, what the neighborhood is like, etc.

Over the last few weeks we’ve made an effort to visit a few open houses on the local Parade of Homes tour. We weren’t interested in any of the properties, but we thought it would be fun to look at the homes and to get the experience of talking to real estate agents. And it was a good experience. There were several people we met who we’d probably be happy working with and others whose aggressive personalities just don’t work with our approach to house hunting. Over the next few weeks we’ll keep an eye on the open house ads for the neighborhoods we’re interested in and make a point of attending showings for properties listed in those areas. I think that might be our best way of finding an agent.

Next Thursday, I’ll start describing what we’re looking for – those things we think are absolutely necessary, tolerable, and detest. I have a feeling we’re going to be hard clients.