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Archive for the ‘Domestic goddess’ Category

I’m bored.

It’s been about 2 months since I’ve graduated. Since then there has been one official job rejection, one interview, and two “we should have something opening up soon and we’ll call you then” that I haven’t heard back from. It’s pretty discouraging and depressing, especially since we decided staying at home with a newborn is a priority and thus I’m not looking for any new full time positions. Even if it’s a choice I made, it doesn’t make me feel any less like a bump on a log.

When I was a kid and would say I was bored, my mom told me to go clean my room. I would reply that cleaning your room is boring too so that wouldn’t help the situation. Being an adult, I must say, my feelings haven’t changed. Cleaning is boring.

So what have I been doing lately? The week after graduation I took a week long intensive course to finish up my public health certification. John graduated. A few days after that, I started a nannying job that looked promising. It was only about 10 hours a week, but something was better than nothing! The kids were adorable and well-behaved. I really enjoyed it. A month later, though, the mom told me they had changed their mind about needing a nanny in July. I don’t think it was personal (though how can you ever really not think that?), because I’m sure they  would have communicated if there had been a problem. Unfortunately, I had planned on having the job through July, and mid-June I was unemployed anew.

Boo.

I was doing a little research for a professor that I had ben working on since last fall. The grant money, unfortunately, was dried up. But I was willing to work for free because it was a chance at a publication. I finished my piece of the research a few weeks ago and turned it in. The last I heard was a “Got it, thanks.”

So still unemployed, now with nothing to do.

I took to Facebook, begging anyone to hire me to do anything legal that didn’t require (much) manual labor. I got a gig housesitting. Housesitting is awesome and terrible at the same time. The amount you get paid is largely less than the amount of work you do. I think the general expectation is that you’ll move into the house you are sitting for, but because the couple forgot to mention they had a cat, my husband can’t stay there (allergic). And we didn’t want to spend 10 days apart, especially as they forgot to give me the internet password. So instead I’m going over there 2-3 a times a day to feed and walk the dog, water the garden and grass, get the mail, etc.

On the other hand, we get to play house for a bit. A dog to walk, a nice deck to sit on, a kitchen to cook in that has amenities like space and a dishwasher. The washer and dryer doesn’t work, unfortunately.

That gig ends tomorrow. Which leaves me doubly, triply unemployed. Helpful suggestions like “just get a job” will be ignored.

We move in three weeks. Don’t tell John, because that means it’s less than 3 weeks until he takes the bar. There’s much I would typically be doing, and things I keep think I should be doing – but none seem practical. “Ooh, I’ll sew some curtains for the new place! But wait, I don’t know how big the windows are or what color rug will buy. Guess that should wait.” Or “I’ll start packing up the stuff in the office! Oh, no, John is still using that room to study.” I STRONGLY believe that mess is not conducive to studying effectively, so I don’t want John to be studying for the biggest test of his life (no pressure, hun) in the nightmare that is packing a 512 ft apartment.

So I’m just bored. Bored, depressed, and unproductive. The real problem is boredom begets boredom (that and we’re just about broke.)  So while I think of the the thousands of things I could do with a summer of freedom (travel! hang gliding! fabulous hiking!) it seems that virtually everything, with the exception of reading and surfing the internet require a) money, b) not being prego, or c) someone who is likewise unemployed and free during the daylight hours to do them with.

So internet, I’m in a funk. What would you do if you found yourself suddenly unemployed and free of obligations? And completely broke?*

*No, we’re not completely broke, just obviously trying to save every penny we can. So suggestions of “cheap” entertainment like “go to a matinee!” do not count.

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Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Except no lemons here, this is IC (aka low acid) friendly. Not to mention raw foodie and vegan and gluten free too! Let’s all have a party and make some waitresses weep!

Recipe:

3 cups whole dates (yuck not those nasty rolled in flour things you got in school lunch. Real, whole medjool dates. Take out the pits though.

1 3/4 cup almonds

.5 cup carob chips, unsweetened. (trust me. Dig that bag you accidentally bought once out of the cupboard. I know, I hate them too. Usually) If you are lucky and can eat the real stuff, duh, use chocolate.

1 tbsp nut butter

1 tbsp coconut, shredded. (yeah that’s not in original snickers, but so what? Neither are dates)

Toss almonds and chips in the food processor. Throw the dates in if yours can handle it. Toss half the coconut in the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Press date mixture in. Sprinkle rest of coconut on top. Cut in squares. Enjoy. Snicker at people whose candy bars come from wrappers.

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House Hunters

You know what gets my goat? That tuition isn’t tax deductible in Montana. Nevermind that we’ve been funneling well over half our income into the state coffers via the university system. Americorps education awards are taxable income, so we are literally paying money to the state on money that is 100% going to the state. I mean really? Really?

Granted, by the time we get the Federal refund and pay state taxes, we still come out a grand total of $10 ahead. But regardless, I’m ready to be done with shelling out cash to school. Because (not to jinx anything two weeks before my defense), graduation bells are right around the corner.

Which means we are moving on up, away from our beloved Missoula, into a brighter and better future. Literally brighter – even though we are moving just an hour and a half away, our new town gets way more sunlight than Missoula’s bowl shape allows. Although I am pretty sad to leave, after all, this is the only place in Montana I’ve ever called home, I am looking forward to a fresh start.

And most of all, a new apartment.

Our place is small. It’s nice, it’s cheap, and it works, but it is small. It’s the perfect size for the two of us, but I would love something bigger. Not because there is going to be three of us any time soon, but because I love having people over. I’m no entertainer; I’m not even much of a people person, but to me, a home should be open. One of my absolute favorite memories of college was our Thursday night potlucks my roommate and I hosted post-graduation. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend and unexpectedly found myself in Williamsburg for the summer with a few other misfits. We hosted potlucks for anyone who cared to come – the guy from my speech class, good friends from freshman year, a friend’s fiance who had just moved to town, underclassmen doing research – you name it.

It was an absolute blast. And I miss it. Our 512 sq feet have hosted more guests than you would have expect, but it would still be wonderful to have things like a guest room. Or a dinner table.

A dinner table that you don’t have to drag to the middle of the living room if you want to sit three people around it, anyway.

This longing for a new place has led to a lot of House Hunters watching. While I’m trying to keep the envy, jealousy, and materialism in check, it makes me want MORE. BETTER. NEW. But you don’t get dream homes when you’re 25. And so I can live without open concepts, granite countertops, clawfoot tubs, hardwood floors. But just for the fun of it, here’s our list of things we are going to look for in a new place. No idea if this comes off as too demanding, but I feel it’s reasonable.

Criteria

* Small house, apartment, or (most preferably) a town house/duplex
* 2-3 bedrooms - I would love to have a guest room! We technically have 2 bedrooms now, but one is being used as an office which we won’t need when we aren’t students.
* Dishwasher – I haven’t had one 3 out of the past 4 years. I want one. NOW.
* Not out of town – We only have one car and have no desire to buy another, so something within biking/busing range is essential!

Negotiables we still feel strongly about

These are things that we really want, but could compromise on if need be.

* Washer/dryer - This is more or less a criteria, BUT I would consider an apartment that has coin-op in the same building. Laundromats are out of the question.
* Pet friendly - We want to keep the options open.
Budget – There’s a little wiggle room here. The rule of thumb I hear is that no more than 30% of your income should go to housing costs. We’re going to apply that rule to one of our incomes, which I think will be plenty for this area.
* Close to one job (probably John’s) - The issue here is that I don’t have a job yet, so there’s no sense in planning a place around where I will work. However, if I get a job where I’ve been applying, we’ll work across the street from each other. And if that’s the case, we’ll carpool so it won’t really matter if we’re super close or not.

In a perfect (yet still somewhat realistic) world

* No wood panelling – Each of the three places I’ve lived in the past four years have had it. I’m sick of it.
* Two bathrooms – The whole “peeing all the time” thing I have going on can be difficult when there are two of you attempting to use the same 3 x 7 ft room.
*  Yard – Even if we don’t get a dog, having a yard would be lovely.
* Paintable – My folks got cable when I was 12, so I have been watching HGTV for 13 years and have been dying to paint a place ever since. I know most rentals don’t let you paint, so if/when we ever buy a house I’m going ALL Sherman-Williams on that place. Beware.
* Fireplace – A real wood burning one. So cozy.
Bathroom without pedestal sink – Hate trying to balance the soap on the edge of the counter and it falling off constantly.
* Garage – Really one I don’t really care about or even plan on looking for, but if we’re talking a perfect world, hey why not?

So what would your dream place look like right now?

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This is all Iran’s fault.

You see, I read the news a lot and I also watch Downton Abbey a lot. I’m also bored a lot of the time since my boss thinks editing an Excel spread sheet is good for about 3 days worth of work to do and my classes tend to be a little, um, easy. Well, except this year I finally get around to taking Introduction to Epidemiology, and WTF it turns out to be “hard” and require “real work.” Are you sitting there thinking “aren’t you working on a thesis and trying to get published too or something?” And to that I say, “don’t remind me.”

The combination of these three things – News, Downton Abbey, and Boredom, have resulted in me becoming convinced that Iran and Israel are about to start World War III and I will be left to feed our family on bread made from home made grain and the milk that comes from our goat. We don’t have a goat, but in this scenario we do.

This weekend our toilet broke. Not “oh just plunge it” or “turn off the water and reconnect that little chain thing” broke, thankyouverymuch, but wouldn’t fill up with water and according to google needed a new part broke. Luckily we were house sitting this weekend for a couple who has four working toilets. Remember, we are pauper students who have one, a fact that the Res Life center was wholly unconcerned about and kept insisting it was a holiday weekend and there was absolutely no way to get a plumber to our apartment. Now I realize normal human beings only use a toilet once every 72 hours (at least according to Res Life), but me having a chronic bladder disorder and all, I do not like to be apart from one at all if I can help it. I understand, of course, I would hate to rip someone away from their family’s President’s Day celebration, singing carols about Jefferson and Monroe and what not. Oh wait, I think they only do that at William and Mary…

So we spent the weekend over at the house we were sitting. At which I became bored, and decided I should learn to make cottage cheese. Again, to you who say “don’t you have stuff to do?” I say “blasphemers! All of you!”

And so I headed over to the nearest grocery store to buy some milk. The grocery store, which I am sure you are all aware of as it was immortalized in the song, “Apology Song” by the Decemberists, is the Orange Street Food Farm.  And the Food Farm has one magic corner known as the “cheap shelf.” While most of the products in the store are pretty mundane, there are always incredibly odd and discounted foods on the cheap shelf, ranging from Halva, a sesame candy, to pear juice. This trip, people were congregating and talking in front of the cheap shelf, a mortal sin to most who live in this town. Etiquette is that three, perhaps four at most, stand silently in front of the shelf, searching for that One Great Deal, taking care to not another’s view.

Whilst trying to peer around the chatty woman and her food cart (double sin), I spied it.

If you ever fly Delta and choose “peanuts” or “pretzels,” excuse me, but you are an idiot. Because the Biscoff cookies are really the choice of champions. Buttery, crunchy, flavorful – I love them. And here was a spread made of that very same foodstuff. It was like Nutella for people who can’t eat chocolate or hazelnuts. It was magic; I had never even dreamed of such a concoction!

I turned over to look at the ingredients and was not deterred by two simple words that usually leave me dropping a food in horror and swearing at the world: citric acid.  See, citric acid is not the friend of someone on a low-acid diet. But I reasoned it away, and gladly spread a few spoonfuls onto a baguette.

By the way I made the cottage cheese, and it tasted and looked more like mozzarella. Oops. Domestic fail.

Fast forward to that evening. We reasoned that our toilet works, kinda sorta enough, if you don’t flush the toilet paper and fill up the back of the tank with water. So we went home, watched Downton Abbey, and attempted to fall asleep.

Let me tell you something. I went to the bathroom somewhere around twenty times that night.

You know how people say, “Oh gosh, I ran like a hundred miles” or “I read a million pages for class tomorrow,” and they don’t really mean what they say? I mean this. I went to the bathroom about twenty times that night. I stopped counting, granted. But when you go to the bathroom about five minutes after you lay down on the bed for somewhere around 3 to 4 hours, you’ve hit the 20 mark. Trust me. There have been times where I have contemplated sleeping on a toilet. (There was actually a time in JVC where I slept in the bathroom. I fainted off the toilet and wound up with an IV drip. Oops.)

Long story short, if there Iran does ever get the bomb, I’m screwed.

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Lately I’ve been making our own laundry soap. Crazy, right? John’s been a good sport about indulging me in this venture and so I think we’ll keep it up for the near future.

The recipe:

1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
1 grated bar of ivory soap or fels naphtha.

Mix. Enjoy. I run it through the food processor to get the soap the same powdery consistency as the rest.

The result?

I can’t tell a difference between it and our old soap. We were using scent free gentle stuff before so it wasn’t a huge jump as it might be going from the regular stuff. It gets stuff clean and gets smells out which is good enough in my book. Other people might rhapsodize about how much softer it makes their clothes, but I don’t notice any difference like that. It works and is cheap, so it’s good enough for me!

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So John and I bought a Wii so that we wouldn’t spend our winter sitting on the couch, we’d be up moving around, getting the blood flowing. You know. All those same reasons you bought a Wii. (Actually, we bought an XBox Kinnect but our apartment was too small for it. You had to be able to stand at least 8 feet back from the TV. It is 6 feet from our TV to our couch. Exactly. We got laughed at the store a lot when we returned it).

Turns out though with the Wii you can stream Netflix, so we ended up watching TV anyway.* But much better TV.

Which brings me to my latest Netflix discovery – Downton Abbey.

It’s British Masterpiece Classic, a period drama about a wealthy English Lord and his family as well as the servants who tend to the estate. Besides the delicious British accents and to-die-for dresses, the acting and character development is phenomenal. (You might notice Maggie Smith up there, yes, from Harry Potter).

The characters aren’t simple cookie cutter “sweet innocent maid” and “evil landlord” and “conniving sister”. They are real. People you love one minute, hate the next, and then shake your head and think “why did they have to do that? I was just starting to like them!”

The plot follows the family as, after the sinking of the Titanic, their line of inheritance is muddled leaving the welfare of the estate and the daughters uncertain. There is plenty of Jane Eyre-esque courting of unsuitable suitors and handsome Mr. Darcy types to fulfill any semi-romantic longings you might have. But the lives of the servants are equally, if not more so, fascinating. Issues of class, gender, love , thievery and impending war in Europe abound.

Besides the fact this will make you want to walk around saying “rather” and “oh dear me” with a faux-British accent, and possibly throw a garden tea party, this series has the ability to draw you into its world and make you forget for an hour that you are neither a lady nor a maid but a grad student who can’t feel the right side of your face because you had a cavity filled.

The biggest downfall of this show is season two doesn’t come on until fall of 2011. So I should warn you, you might want to wait until the week before it airs to start watching it, lest you be heart broken when you find out you have to wait months to see what happens next.

Seriously.

Watch it.

Now.

* It’s really my fault that we watched TV more than played on the Wii this winter as my IC was not treating me too well for most of February and March. But can I just say I beat John in the baseball game last week. And so we are never, ever playing that one again.

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Nothing says summer like high 40s and rain. So I thought that maybe I would update you on my “summer” plans.

This summer I had pictured myself getting some fabulous internship that was well-paid and would offer me a job next spring. Then I heard these words:

“Your timeline for finishing your thesis is . . . optimistic. It’s a bit ambitious.”

So change of plans. Instead of looking for an internship (also realizing their aren’t just fabulous internships to be had in this economy. Oh people who graduated before 2008, you don’t know how lucky you are!) I decided to work full time on my thesis.

Translation:

Me. Sitting at home at my computer. Reading. Writing. Fabulous, right?

I’m also still working part-time at the two transitional housing facilities, one for families and one for veterans, but I haven’t been getting many shifts lately. Well, I put in about 20 this week but have nothing on the schedule as of now. Which is fine, because this summer is for research, but let’s just say cash is always appreciated.

I’m not going to lie – I feel like kind of a bum. My husband is out there working hard (he got a fabulous internship this summer, by the way!) and I’m basically a stay at home wife.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with being a stay at home mom, but I don’t have kids. (And really, women who have had kids that are out of the house usually have enough going on in their life by that point that even if they don’t return to work full time they have figured out some way to make their days useful and beneficial and contribute to society.)

But being a 24 year old (part-time) stay at home wife is a little different. I feel a little bit useless. I’m not bringing home much money, though in the long run I realize I’m saving us money by getting thesis work done over the summer when I don’t have to pay to be enrolled as opposed to staying on an extra semester to finish it up.

On the other hand, I’m kind of curious to see what it’s going to be like. I’m all for splitting household responsibilities equally among the sexes, but obviously when one person is working full time and the other one is not, it’s not going to kill me to do the dishes/cook/clean more often. We view our marriage as a partnership and during the school year we were completely equal. But for the next few months I get to see what more traditional gender roles will be like.

It will be interesting to see what other ways I can contribute to the house since I’m not bringing home a full-time paycheck. Cooking more so we’ll eat out less. Baking bread instead of buying it. Cleaning during the day so we can enjoy our summer evenings together.

It will be an interesting experiment – I’ll let you know how it goes!

P. S. John – this in no way implies I will be wearing pearls and an apron with a roast in the oven every night when you get home. In fact, I’d be surprised if the dishes are even done by the time you get home tonight. Sorry. Busy day. :-)

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