Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It's a little embarassing, but Halloween is totally my favorite holiday.  I love the idea of being anything you want for one day.  I love the creativity in decorations, costumes and even yummy treats!  Its a perfect time of year as its not usually too hot or too cold.  Around here, you never know what its going to be like.  Last year, it was sunny in the 80s, this year, its partly cloudy and in the high 50s.  Even though I started working on our costumes at the beginning of October, I was literally hemming T's dress last night and adding details today.  Ah, procrastination...

Anyways, I can't wait to update with some pics tomorrow!  Hopefully my darling is as excited as I am.  I got a little nervous this morning when she was afraid of the Jack-o-lantern!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pinterest Review

I don't know about you, but I have an addiction to Pinterest.  It's become one of those sites that I must check regularly, right up there with email, and it even bumped (gasp!) facebook.  I get so many great ideas from this site and I've tried a bunch of them, from recipes to crafts and I thought I would share a little review of those here.   

In case you're not on Pinterest yet (Don't do it! Total time suck!  But, you know you want to!!!), here's an invite from me to you! Don't forget to follow my boards, I update all.the.time! (Click button below!)
Follow Me on Pinterest

I'll even introduce a crafty ratings scale from one to five scissors!
(based on ease yet high end result, time involved, and final result) 
(Bear with me, I'm avoiding writing my thesis!)


Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

No-sew T-shirt scarf: Follow this link if the picture doesn't connect you right away.
I actually bought a cheapo red Tshirt at Target (where else?!) to make this and I love the scarf I ended up with!  Perfect for fall, light, comfy and just that extra little bit of warmth to get me to work in the morning.  Best of all, no sewing, just some easy and forgiving cutting! Rating: """

Kind of on a scarf kick here, fall was approaching. 

Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

T-shirt yarn scarf: I made this using an old yellow Tshirt from the softball team I was on (that lasted all of three games!). While super easy, I wasn't as impressed by the final product.  Was it a scarf?  Was it a necklace?  Not really sure and so I never wear it. Rating: "

Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

Maternity-friendly Maxi Skirt: I've been following this blog for a while now, simply because I am so impressed with the garments she makes, not thinking that I could ever make something for myself.  Kids clothes are easy, they can be loose and cute.  Women's clothing needs to fit.  However, when she posted the tutorial for the maxi skirt that would be perfect for a maternity skirt, I had to give it a try.  I have to say that I love it!  I made it in a royal blue fabric and have worn it many times.  I did make it a little big for my current belly, but we know that's going to grow so no concerns there!  This blogger is holding a link up at the end of this month of all the maxi's we have all made and I will be linking up mine there.  This did take some know-how, especially since it was sewing with jersey knit, so I can't give it the full rating I would like to give.  Rating: """"

Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

Austumn Veggie and Rice meal: My mouth is watering just looking at this picture!  This was so good!  In full disclosure, when I made it, my rice wasn't instant and it was still, um, crunchy, but that didn't hold me (or hubs) back from eating left overs!  And, right now, any food that makes me hungy is good in my book.  Even better, this was an easy, one pan dish.  More please!
Rating: """""

Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole: Made this on our hiking trip for the last morning.  The morning we all leave is usually filled with stripping beds, laundry, cleaning, packing and little time for a wholesome breakfast.  Mission accomplished, everyone liked it and said it was great.  I wouldn't know.  I was so nauseous that morning, I couldn't eat a thing!  Too bad for me.  Rating: """

BTW, I'm starting to notice a lot of these are foods. :)

Hasselback Potatoes: These were delicious!  Since my mom was pregnant with my sister, 26 years ago, I have hated baked potatoes and only recently have I wanted them again, but they take so long to bake!  These were only a minor improvement in the time department, but the taste was so good!  Layered with garlic, salt and pepper, topped with cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  Mmm-mmm!  Yum! Rating: """"

Spicy Thai Noodles: Ok, so I made this one last night.  While my first attempt at making the sauce burned, the second worked well and it was amazing!  So absolutely yummy!  I added a lot more carrots, cilantro, and green onion than the recipe called for to make it a little more veggie-full.  I also limited the red pepper to one tablespoon. B and I love spicy food and even with just one tablespoon there was plenty of heat!  So good! Rating: """"

Source: None via JJ on Pinterest

Crocheted rug out of sheets: I have a weird thing about sheets.  If they're wrinkly, I need to fix them regardless of what time it is.  My poor hubby has been woken up in the wee hours of the morning by me fixing the sheets.  Anyways, my favorite set that NEVER wrinkled ripped and I was devastated.  This project let me honor their contribution to my sanity by preserving them forever as a throw rug!  At first, I only ripped up the torn sheet since the top sheet was still intact.  However, it is currently only a small door mat size rug right now after using the entire fitted sheet.  I will go back and use the top sheet to finish this project.  For now, it keeps my feet comfy while I relax on the couch.  The drawbacks to this project are the length of time involved and there not really being a pattern, per se.  My rug was definitely getting a little ruffled on the edges.  However, there is a lot of flexibility and after stretching it out a bit and flattening it under the couch cushions, it is nice a flat.  This is still an ongoing project, hopefully one I will finish soon. Rating: """

Source: None via Melissa on Pinterest

Milk jug ghosts: These were a lot of fun once I got all the sticky labels off!  They look great lit up too!  Can't say they were free, I had to buy white Christmas lights and a Sharpie marker, but for that price, it's a great Halloween decoration! Rating: """"

Cozy, chunky, cowl: Doesn't this cowl look super warm and comfy?  I started this project as my contribution to the current Cowl-Along, hosted by Luvinthemommyhood.  I don't knit, so I haven't joined previously, but crocheters were specifically welcomed this time, so I jumped at the opportunity.  This project is super quick and actually really easy despite the "intermediate" skill rating listed with it.  Plus, it is a free pattern!  I've actually finished the rows called for in the pattern and its still a bit short, so I'm sure it's my clusters that are small, but I'll be adding a few more rows to the pattern.  I'm making this as a gift, but I will definitely have to make one for myself too!
Rating: """""

Coincidentally, I realized that I have ten reviews here!  I'll be linking this post up to the Tuesday Ten at Miss Mommy and Under the Table and Dreaming.  See the buttons below!


Hiking Trip Wrap Up

Warning: Prepare yourself for picture overload!

Well, we're back to real life.  Back in the city, back to doing laundry and making dinner for 3 (really 2, T barely eats what I make), back to the sirens and police chases through our neighborhood.  Seriously.  Welcome home, huh?

Anyways, its the escape from real life that makes our annual NH hiking trip so amazing.  Fresh woodsy air, beautiful scenery, great food and friends, quick visits with family on our way up and back down. 

Seriously, we wake up every morning to this view.  How can you beat this?

Despite my irrational, hormone fueled paranoia last week about taking T hiking, we did actually make it out for a short hike.  I was worried that the rest of our party wouldn't be as interested in a "family friendly" hike, seeing as in past years we have climbed 1500 feet in elevation over 4 miles, but given that the weather was questionable the whole weekend, it actually worked out.  We took a nice 1.5 mile hike to "Diana's Baths".  The path was wide, clear and pretty flat.  There were streams alongside and a massive waterfall at the end. 

We stayed far, far away from the waterfall (insert paranoia here), but were able to view its beauty from afar.  T got to pick up pinecones, leaves, rocks.  She got to jump little streams (with help), climb on boulders, and stand on tree stumps.  She waved "Bye" to everything.  I was so happy she got to get outside and experience all of that.  It breaks my heart that she doesn't have a backyard to explore the world in right now, and I'm not about to let her explore the city parks where dogs and people relieve themselves and people abuse drugs.

Anyways, the weekend is much more than just hiking.  The friends we meet up with there every year are the kind of friends that no matter how far away you live or how infrequently they see you, you know they've got you back.  In fact, recently, we were trying to find a way to make a move back up north.  In the end, it just wasn't going to work, but one of these friends was willing to open their home to us to give us time to find a new house.  Can you imagine? Two adults, one child (and one more about to makes its appearance, a dog and two cats and they were still willing to let us stay with them?  Now that's friendship!

We ate gluttonously all weekend.  Pepperjack mac and cheese, amazing homemade tomato soup with the grilled cheese spectacular (Oh my word, it was sooooooo good!), vegetarian chili, braised pork tacos (ok, veggie tacos for me), pancakes, egg and cheese sandwiches, never mind the brownies, Chex mix, chips and dip, etc.  Oy.  If I was feeling 100% the entire weekend, I would have gained 20 pounds!  Luckily (?), I'm still feeling nauseous regularly and vomiting occasionally (sorry hiking trip ladies for the reality check, but that's pregnancy!).

But really, the best part about the trip was just being able to relax with my family and our amazing friends, getting to watch T play with the two little boys that were there and watching her attach herself to our friend Karen.  I truly have never seen her adore someone so quickly!  There were no schedules, no timelines, nothing that had to be done ever.  Ahhh, it was so peaceful!

During out last stop at my in-laws (I love them!  Have I mentioned this before?), T got to play with her cousin K for a while.  It was so sweet to watch them instantly bond.  I have visions of the two of them spending a week or two at the grandparents over the coming summers and beign the closest friends.  Here's a pic of them "helping" Grandpa feed the birds and playing with K's new bro, D.  So cute!

Gosh, I love those smiles!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Take two of these? No thanks!

Yesterday was a bummer of a day.  It was one that began with such high hopes, which made it all that much worse when everything crashed.  I had been working on a two week experiment and yesterday was going to be the final day of analysis, to see if it actually worked.  On top of that, it was two experiments in one, two of the three experiments that I've been working on since July, two of the three experiments that I need to complete in order to graduate on time.  I was so built up about it, that I even had a team of people praying that all would go well.

Well, it didn't.  Controls didn't work - which means the experiment didn't work - which means that I'm not likely to graduate this December as I had been planning.  I was so depressed about the results that I couldn't even talk about it without tearing up.  I think I ate 5 fun size candy bars and I was still depressed.  I had a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and I was still depressed.  I made my way to T's daycare to pick up the munchkin.  As soon as I walked in "MUM!" and dancing.  Lots of dancing.  Well, I guess things can't be all that bad right?

T and I had a busy but awesome afternoon together.  One lady even remarked to me how well behaved she was and asked if she was always like this.  Beaming, I had to reply, "Actually, yes!".  Running late, we had a quick bath night and off to bed, but I still wan't able to make dinner for my hubs.  Starting to slip into that funk again (what kind of wife am I  that I can't even have dinner ready on nights that B works late?), I walked to the door when I heard his key turn.  Knowing how my day had been earlier, he surprised me with flowers.  Flowers!  I am seriously the luckiest woman on Earth.  I have a beautiful, funny, daughter with a great personality who always makes me laugh and smile - AND I have a husband that is kind, sincere, thoughtful, loving and forgiving when we have grilled chese for dinner.  Who needs medication when you have all that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Annual NH Hiking Trip: Day one Highlight

This Thursday begins our annual hiking trip in NH. Every year this weekend is filled with great friends, great food, amazing foliage, and of course hiking. I have such great memories of past year trips, from the 4 hour hike to the Fire Tower three years ago to Miss T rolling over for the first time last year. I eagerly await the fun times we’ll have this year.

Our drive began late Wednesday night, from Maryland to Rhode Island where we crashed at B’s parents’ house. Thank goodness for that break, there’s no way I could handle 10 hours of driving never mind Miss T! We started up again this morning, picking up lunch on our way out. This might have been the highlight of day one. There’s this little family-owned sub shop in Coventry, RI called “Captain Nemo’s”.

B first introduced me to this place about 10 years ago. This stop is a necessity every time we come “home”. Being transplanted to Maryland, there are certain things we have to do when we are home, go to Dunkin Donuts*, shop at Christmas Tree Shops, and stop at Nemo’s for lunch. I get the same thing everytime, as does B. For me, it’s the eggplant parmesan sub, for B it’s the Cajun chicken sandwich. Seeing as I’m still a delicate balance between needing to throw up and being ravishingly hungry, we were taking a chance that I’d even be able to eat. The stars were aligned today and I was able to enjoy my eggplant parm with it’s crisp breading, tender inside, perfectly melted provolone and just the right amount of sauce. Oh man, it’s a good thing we don’t live within 20 minutes of that place or I would be a large and in charge momma!

For a blog entry about our annual NH hiking trip, I realize I’ve spent a lot of time talking about food we got from RI, but it’s that good! Don’t worry, I’ll update later with pictures of foliage, Miss T exploring the great outdoors, maybe even a few finds from the outlet stores!

*I realize that there are Dunkin Donuts in Maryland too, but trust me, it’s not the same. Dunkin Donuts began in Massachusetts and is a New England staple. It’s these shops that really know how to make a delicious, down to earth, unassuming cup of coffee! Plus, around here, you can actually give directions by the location of DD stores along the way, there's one on nearly every corner!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When I grow up...

It seems that I've been on a particular path for about 87.9% of my life (I actually did the math).  My mom will tell you that from an early age I wanted to be a scientist, wear a lab coat, figure out life, and save the world.  I was always organized (my dolls were arranged in order of size and then based on the color of their outfits, I know, ridiculous), curious, and wanting to know more.  Through high school, I elected to take as many biology classes as I could and went to college for a BS in Biotechnology.  I worked for 6 years as a Research Associate, doing the "research" that other people wanted, not really finding my purpose.  I was starting to get "itchy".  I wanted more than that.  So I went back to school to get my PhD.

Fast forward 5+ years, and here I am, approaching the end of my graduate school career, mere months away from defending my thesis research and earning the elusive title of "Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology".  I'm also finding that I have no idea what I want to do afterwards.


I've been working toward this goal my entire life: to be a scientist, figure out life, and save the world.  Now I'll have the credentials I need to do my own research, to go on and have the most productive research lab in the history of research and get that Nobel Prize by the ripe age of 40.  Right?

Except... now I have a family.

For someone who never even entertained the idea of kids, I love being a mom and its my biggest priority (right after being a good wife!).  My daughter is my world.  I fall asleep thinking of her and wake up thinking of her and every moment in between.  It's also been the most universally challenging and guilt-ridden job I've ever had.  Normally at work, I know immediately (or within a few days) if I've messed up.  I won't know until she's an adult if I've done irreparable damage!

So now, I find myself with completely different priorities than that 4 year old little girl who dreamed of saving the world through science.  I still love it and find it completely fulfilling, but it competes with the time I can spend with my family.  If I stay on the path  I've been on, my days and evenings (and yes, even weekends) will be filled with grant applications, traveling to speaking engagements and conferences on top of research and teaching.  Is there some sort of compromise?  I wish I had the answer.

As I approach the end of my endentured servanthood (i.e. grad student), I am weighing my options.  How important is it to me to do actual research?  Are there other ways I can contribute to society within my field?  What else can I do with my degree?  I've only done research, am I capable of something else?

I've learned a few things from countless seminars, job fairs, etc.  One is that a path one takes to their ultimate profession is never straight.  There are lots of bumps, wrong turns and detours along the way.  It's okay for me to try something else, even if it doesn't work out.  I've also learned that it's never too late to reinvent yourself.  In fact, in this workplace and economy, it's almost essential that you do so every 5-10 years.  Alright, so maybe my next move isn't the decisive factor in who I will be.  Maybe its just a stepping stone or specific experience that makes me stand out in a crowd.  Maybe I don't need to put so much pressure on my choices now.  Maybe I'm ready to try something new.  After all, I tried being a mom and look how much I love that!

Linking up at The Anderson Family Crew

Friday, October 7, 2011

Halloween decor

Earlier this week, I gave some hints as to what I've been crafting on lately.  I had a surge of energy last night and this morning and got a ton done!  Actually, the surge of energy was more the fear of guests coming over tonight with my house a mess and no decorations up!  Haha! Nothing like a little motivation, huh?

Anyways, here are some of my decorations and beauties!

These are my standard, store bought decorations that I put up each year.  I got both of those Halloween cats for a total of $15 on Halloween day a bunch of years ago, marked down from $45 each!  Sweet!

This is what I've been working on:

My Halloween rag wreath!  Simply tied strips of black netting and orange and yellow fabric around an old grapevine wreath I had.  Love it!  I put it up with 3M Command Strips.  I hope it holds!

Milk jug ghosts!  I may make a few more of these, time (and milk consumption) permitting.  Lesson learned, use Sharpies, not T's washable markers!  The have white Christmas lights in the back of them so they light up at night - so cool! 

My piece-de-resistance!  I am in love with this!  Let's take a closer look, shall we?

I spray painted this awesome branch I found and an old clay pot with black glossy spray paint.  I found the paint in my basement from the previous owner and the pot and branch were free, total score!  Once dried, I inserted the branch into potting soil and wrapped black netting and sparkly orange tulle around the base.  I tied strips of orange fabric around some of the branches and the pot to add some color.  The s'mores guys were previously purchased.  I made mummies out of crepe paper and T.P. rolls.  I cut up paper towel rolls and wrapped felt around them, attached a handle and drew faces on them with a Sharpie.  The Frankensteins and Ghosts were totally inspired by this blogger, Kiki creates.  I love how it came out!  I hope my cats don't equally love it!  They tend to knock things over!

To top off my Halloween decoration morning, after I took our dog out one last time before work, I deposited his, um, "stuff" in our trash can only to be followed by a whole mess of scratching.  Upon closer inspection, there was a rat in our can!  Not just a rat mind you.  They get big around here, like R.O.U.S. big!  (Rodents of unusual size!)

It must not have liked me peeking at it cause it let out this unearthly shriek!  So of course I screamed, then our dog started howling.  Lovely.  Still grossed out!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sweater refashion into: Boot Socks!

I love summer and I'm always a little sad when fall arrives and I have to say goodbye to hot humid days, long hours of sunshine, fresh local produce, and dreams of the ocean.  sigh.

(BTW, the above picture is of my favorite beach of all time.  If you're ever in the southern Massachusetts area, check out Horseneck Beach!)

Luckily for me, I love the promise of fall fashion!  Being able to bring out the sweaters and pants again makes me happy.  However, the one thing that I was most looking forward to wearing this fall was my knee high, flat brown boots.

I saw these on one of my favorite bloggers, Ms. Ashley of Little Miss Momma, and I absolutely had to have them!  I never regretted the money spent that's how awesome they are.

Spending some time on pinterest, I started loving the idea of these boot socks, but not the prices.  Seriously, $20+ for a pair of socks?

Source: via Melissa on Pinterest

But hey, I figured, I could just make my own!  A little old sweater refashion, shall we?  Get ready for my first ever tutorial!

I started off with this old grey turtleneck sweater that I just never wear any more.  It's a nice warm wool, but the neck always bothered me and I won't be needing anything that fitted for a while right?

Lucky for me, being 5'1", the length of the arms on my sweater were the perfect length of my legs!  I determined how long I needed them to be by just sticking my legs into the arms!  I'm sure for the majority of you out there who are at least six inches taller than me, a larger size sweater than you normally wear from a thrift store would do just fine.
For me, I cut off the sleeves just at the lowest point of where the sleeve attaches to the body of the sweater.

This next part gets tricky, so bear with me.

I took each sleeve, wrist end down and stuck my legs in toe first.

That's it!

Now I have these adorable sweater-y boot leg warmers to wear all fall and maybe into the winter!

(don't mind the horrible laminate floor in the pictures above, I'm in lab.  Obviously I'm getting a ton of work done on my thesis and my experiments right now.  haha.)

So, I will admit that it would probably be best to do some finishing on the cut end of the sweater sleeves.  If I had a serger, I would probably do that in a cute contrasting color - but I don't.  (still watching craigslist for a cheap one in my area!)  Or, if I had some elastic thread, I would probably use that to give the cut end some elasticity.  I'll figure it out.  In the meantime, these are adorable and free and done in less than two minutes!  Enjoy!