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Friday, June 15, 2018

Breaking The Blogging Silence With A Few Pictures

So.  Blogging has been a challenge for me lately, which is a pity, since it's something I enjoy.

There are a couple reasons for this, I think.  For one thing, I'm taking two science classes in an eight week period of time.  These are the last of my prerequisites before going back to grad school in August.  On the one hand, this is pretty much an exercise in checking off boxes at this point.  I'm already in a graduate program, and there isn't much pressure to ace these classes.  On the other hand, since it's two of them in a compressed time frame, there are lots of little boxes to check off along the way.  This leaves me feeling pretty busy and like there's always some task I need to finish.

The other reason is that I've fallen into a transition mentality at this point.  I find transitions stressful--even ones that I think will ultimately be good ones--and it's hard to think of blogging material when I'm stressed out about what's coming next.  I'm starting school again--what will it be like to be a full-time student in my late thirties?  I'm leaving a job I care about--what if I regret doing that?  And how much notice should one give when you've actually been pretty sure for months that you would leave?  On top of that transition, we're looking down the barrel of a possible local move to make Scott's commute more manageable.  Local moves are not the end of the world, but any sort of move is expensive and disruptive.  Plus, we would need to find someplace to move to.

All of this is to say that my mind has been mush lately, but I still want to blog.  So in the interest of putting something in this space, I'll put in a few pictures that I like!

Heh heh.  I took this one back in April, but I like it enough that I'm adding it to the blog now.

This was possibly the prettiest chocolate bar I had ever seen.  But, since it was chocolate, I ate it anyway.

I always love seeing turtles.

Groundhogs are pretty cool, too.  You can't really tell from this picture, but these were babies.  I had never seen such tiny ones before.

And for something that makes no sense at all...what sort of cat drops her toy mouse in her food bowl?!  This happened this morning, and I'm curious what will happen when she rediscovers it later.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Life's Little Triumphs: Me-Made-May Edition

Happy Me-Made-May, everyone!

For those of you out there who don't obsessively read sewing blogs, Me-Made-May is a time for sewists (I'm following the lead of others and not referring to people who sew as sewers) to celebrate their handmade garments.  Many sewists make pledges, such as promising to wear at least one handmade garment every day in May.  Many people put pictures of their me-made outfits on their blogs or Instagram.  I didn't make any pledges myself, but since my collection of me-made clothing has grown slightly since this time last year, I've found myself making an effort to wear some of the things I've made this month.  Me-Made-May has also encouraged me to think about what I want to get out of sewing as a hobby and what sorts of gaps I have in my closet currently (knit tops that don't cling relentlessly to my midriff and button-up shirts that don't gap open anywhere are high on my list!).

With that being said, my life's little triumph for Me-Made-May was making a very specific garment that I've been trying to buy from stores for the past couple of summers: a charcoal gray knit maxi skirt.

There were a number of problems with trying to purchase a ready-to-wear charcoal gray knit maxi skirt.  The first problem is my height.  Unless I buy maxi skirts that are designated as "tall" sizes, the skirt will end an awkward few inches above my ankles.  Needing to buy "tall" maxi skirts already limits the retailers I can shop from.

The color charcoal gray turned out to be another problem.  For solid colored maxi skirts, black seems to be the most popular color, with navy blue a distant second.  In terms of gray, all I ever saw was light heather gray (think of the color you often say on men's gray t-shirts), which wasn't what I wanted.

The final challenge is that a good number of knit maxi skirts are designed in such a way that they cling to the wearer's derriere, showing undie lines devastatingly clearly.  This I don't understand at all.  I realize that not everyone has my height issues with clothing, and that not everyone wants the same colors of clothing that I do.  But I'm pretty sure that NOBODY wants visible panty line, much let alone extremely visible panty line!  This raises the interesting question of why such skirts are being produced in the first place.

So I decided to take the plunge and try making the skirt I wanted.  Even though it's technically a very simple project, it felt like a stretch in my skills because I only recently started sewing with knit fabrics at all and I had only made t-shirts up until that point.  I opted for buying a pattern rather than using one of the online tutorials for drafting your own knit maxi skirt, which I actually think was a mistake because the sizing was way off, which I tried on the waistband for size and discovered I was swimming in it.  After removing quite a bit of fabric, I ended up with a skirt that fit.  I wore it to work the other day, and I'm happy to report that it didn't fall down even once.  :)  There is still plenty of room for me to improve my sewing, but it's nice to think that now I can choose projects more based on my clothing needs rather than (lack of) technical skills.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

This Tops My List Of First World Problems

For the next week or so, I will be dealing with the fallout of  the king of all first world problems: pepper-infested feta cheese from Whole Foods.

I buy crumbled feta cheese pretty frequently to add to my salads in jars, and this week, I also have plans to add it to a casserole.  Whole Foods was horribly crowded today, and I had to reach over someone's head to get my tub of feta cheese.  In my hurry to get through the shopping and get the whatever out of the store, I didn't look closely enough at what I grabbed, and discovered the revolting truth once I got home.

I'll admit that I've always thought black pepper was pretty gross.  I have approximately 200 assorted spice bottles in my kitchen cabinet, so it's not that I'm against spices in general.  Just black pepper, the once spice that seems to be pretty universally enjoyed in the US.  But even putting aside my own personal distaste for black pepper, isn't it weird that pepper-infested feta cheese is even a product that is sold?  Does this mean that people were willingly contaminating their own perfectly good feta cheese with pepper before it was sold mixed together?  Did Whole Foods use a focus group to come up with this idea, or was this a pet project of some employee with idiosyncratic eating habits?

I have no desire to enter the fray of Whole Foods for a second time in one week, so I'm stuck with my weird, speckled feta cheese for now.  I'll see if my salads are better for the feta, or worse for the addition of black pepper.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Be Like The Mint Plant!

This will be my third summer in my current apartment, and for the past two years, I've grown small balcony gardens.  We've had an unusually chilly spring here, but I'm finally convinced that the plant-killing cold is done for the season, so I decided to buy a few plants at the farmers market today (yellow cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and basil--I'm hoping to buy a few more plants TBD). 

I haven't spent much time on the balcony lately.  Really, the last time I remember spending an extended period of time out there was in the fall when I decided that my dead plants from the summer were becoming too unsightly and I dug them all up.  My various planters spent the winter on the balcony, and I had noticed looking out the window that one of them had several green shoots growing up.  I just assumed that a bird had dropped some bird seed in the planter and that we might get a sunflower, but I didn't think too much about it.

So imagine my surprise when I went out on the balcony to plant this summer's crop of plants and found that the mystery plant in the planter was mint!  Sure, we had mint last summer, but I uprooted it in the fall!  When the plant appeared to be extremely dead!  Not to mention the fact that it spent the winter outside in the cold, receiving no water or attention from me.

So, I guess we're getting mint as a freebie this year, which is pretty cool.  I had been on the fence about growing mint this summer because even though I like the idea of having it, I didn't use it all that much last summer.  But apparently the mint decided for us.  I have to admire its tenacity, and if just being a plant on the balcony doesn't suit it, I can see it having a side career being photographed for inspirational posters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I'm Getting Old AND One Of Life's Little Triumphs

There are all sorts of things in life that might make us feel old, and if I wanted to, I could discuss random aches and pains or my disinterest in most forms of social media.  But I think a more important aspect of aging for me is the sharp reduction in procrastination in my life.

I don't think I was ever as bad as they come in terms of procrastination.  But going back to school in my late thirties has given me a chance to compare myself as a student at two very different ages.  When I was in my early twenties and had an assignment due in two weeks, I usually didn't worry to much about it, figuring I had plenty of time and what could possibly go wrong.  Now if I have an assignment due in two weeks, I feel like it should already be done and worry about what sorts of obstacles will pop up to prevent me from finishing it.

School is the area where it's easiest for me to see my change in mindset, but it happens in other areas of life, too.  Generally speaking, if I know there's something I need to do, I want to get it done so I can stop thinking about it and wait for the ten more things that will immediately pop up on my to-do list.  Not that I never put anything off, mind you--it's just less often, and usually with a good reason (e.g., a problem that I think will resolve itself if I leave it alone).

This brings me to one of life's little triumphs:  The institution I referred to as University B in my last blog post has finally decided to let me enroll in classes there this summer.  (I'm almost hesitant to write about this triumph, lest I jinx myself and find that University B finds some loophole to unenroll me!).  But right now, I'm so relieved.  For one thing, I really do need to take these classes this summer, and if University B had refused to let me enroll, I would have just had to enroll somewhere else.  But also, at this point, I've been dealing with University B for around a month.  It was that thing from my to-do list that refused to be checked off.  I purposely applied early, thinking I could enroll early and then forget about the whole thing until it was time to start classes.  At this point, I won't have quite as much time to sit back and forget about the whole thing, but I'll happily take what I can get.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trying To Finish One Set Of Steps...So I Can Start Another

Oh, the joys of educational bureaucracy!

I've written here a few times about taking evening classes.  Well, since these classes were prerequisites for a graduate program, they were finite in number....and I'm almost done!  With one little catch...

When I started taking class at at University A, I enrolled in a specific post-baccalaureate program.  This program offered many of the prerequisites for the graduate program I was interested in, but not every possible class that every program might require.  The advantages to the post-baccalaureate program were that the classes were offered in the evening (thus making them about as compatible with a full-time job as you're going to get), and that I wouldn't have to compete with traditional undergraduates to enroll.  The disadvantage was that I was allowed to enroll only in this particular set of classes.

This all worked quite well for a while, but I now have two science courses to take that are not included in the post-baccalaureate program.  I decided to enroll in University B, an open-enrollment university with an emphasis on online course offerings.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out.  For reasons I don't understand, the fact that I am currently taking a class at University A may preclude me from taking classes at University B.  I discovered this when--despite receiving many form emails from University B reminding me to enroll in classes--I was blocked from enrollment.  I spoke to and emailed several people at University B, and was ultimately told that I needed permission to enroll from University A.  The problem is that since I'm a non-degree seeking student, University A does not care where else I choose to go to school and has no mechanism to provide me with any such documentation. 

With some more follow-up, University B now seems willing to accept verification of enrollment (which shows no enrollment past this spring) from University A.  Naturally, University A was only able to send this by snail mail (why?!).  I sent an email to University B today to see if they had received it yet.  I've been working on enrolling at University B for about a month now, and I'm anxious to enroll in the classes I need before they fill up.  (While I'm assigning creative pseudonyms to universities, I'll mention that this is all so I can start a master's program at University C in the fall.  So, I'm on the clock at this point to finish everything up.)

Do I have any words of wisdom to impart from this experience?  Not really, because I still don't understand the problem. I'm not sure why it should matter to either University A or University B where else I might be taking classes.  The closest thing I have to useful knowledge about this is to start early when dealing with universities, especially if you're trying to do something even remotely unusual.  I wouldn't have guessed that taking prerequisites from two different universities was all that unusual, but maybe it is.

I remain hopeful that this enrollment business will work out in the end, however, and I'm very excited to see a light at the end of the tunnel!  I've been fortunate to be able to take so many classes using tuition remission, but there's no getting around the fact that taking classes while working is a tiring experience.  In addition to it being tiring, the outcome was also uncertain for a long time.  There was no guarantee that I would get into a graduate program, and completing these prerequisite courses on their own was unlikely to open very many career doors.  I'm happy to see my free time gamble pay off, and I'm looking forward to the next set of steps.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spring Breaking In The Cold

Scott and I made a trip to Vermont last week, over his spring break.  We did something similar last year, but his break fell later in the year then, so it seemed somewhat more spring-y then.  We had fun this year, though, in spite of the remnants of snow.  And there is something to be said about having a spring break somewhere where you're pretty sure nobody is filming the next installment of Girls Gone Wild.

Middlebury wanted to keep its residents safe.  Good thing--those icicles have been known to kill people!

Montpelier had an ice skating rink in front of its state capitol building!

But alas, safety considerations prevented anyone from using it.  As a native of North Carolina, I have to ask:  When is the ice ever safe?

In Burlington, we saw seagulls standing on a patch of ice in Lake Champlain.

I'm relieved to say that while there was snow on the ground in Vermont, none actually fell while we were there.  It's been an odd winter, with plenty of late season winter storms to go around.  I think the season has truly changed in our neck of the woods, as we were greeted with this beautiful spring scene when we returned home.