Monday, March 30, 2009

Tip - Pesach purge: the medicine cabinet

Ever since we moved in, we have utilized two cabinets in two bathrooms for our personal hygiene/medicine stuff, in addition to a bin for our daugher's things. This has led to a bit of disorganization, with bandaids being in one bathroom and something else being in another and where is the thermometer?

The pre-Pesach cleaning time is a good opportunity to solve this problem and organize things. It really doesn't take more than a few minutes (or at least, it shouldn't). I removed expired medications, organized all the different types of bandaids in one location, moved all of the non-essentials together, and basically coralled everything together in a logical format which makes the cabinet work for me instead of against me (hello more space!). I bought a set of two plastic trays at Walmart for 75 cents. Cheap and useful!

It's a good time to take inventory, update the first-aid kit, get rid of the old stuff, and see what you really have so you can use it up instead of always buying new (where applicable). See - cleaning can be fun!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pic of bookcase

Here is a pic of the bookcase that made me feel so productive last Sunday (read here). In case you are interested. The blue-pink-white boxes that are inside the shelves I purchased at The Container Store. They are a bit more than what I would have liked to have paid for them, but they are made of mesh and are collapsible and just fantastic, so I like to think that I will use them for a long time, in or out of the bookcase, so they are worth what I paid for them. I also think the colors brighten up the space. Prior to this bookcase, we had a low, brown 3-shelf bookcase that contained our books on the top shelf, our daughter's books and other paraphernalia on the bottom 2 shelves, and the crate in the pic and another bin with all of her toys next to the sofa. Magically, this bookcase makes everything so much more organized, and has room for our photos and books!!! A real breakthrough!! The fact that I am still writing about it indicates just how much this bookcase has changed my life.

Friday, March 27, 2009

No tv? Can we even go there?

The subject of our television unit (and tv consumption) has now become a regular topic of conversation for two reasons:
1. The tv's current home is the guest room, but with a home office, future baby room, extra bed for guest all competing for space, we are not quite sure where to move our tv to next. We don't want it in the living room, and we don't want it in our bedroom.
2. The digital conversion that for some unknown reason Congress has made a priority (over seemingly less-important issues like cancer research, poverty eradication, and literacy) has brought up the issue of either buying a new tv (although ours works just fine) or converting it to digital.

We are not big tv watchers, especially since we don't have cable/satellite. We mostly watch tv to kill time, either to put off going to bed or to watch something totally mind-numbing. The news we get online, and life is too busy to make time for shows when they come on. We've taken to watching tv and movies online, so it's on our schedule and where we are comfortable.

So why not just get rid of the tv? That way, I don't have to worry about where to place the set in the house. If there is no set for me to just turn on, I won't have the temptation of getting sucked in to some show. I won't have to worry about converting it to digital! One less thing to do (and to clean - those things attract dust!).

But television is so wrapped up in our culture it's almost difficult to imagine a life without it. The set is there right now, but I hardly use it, but I know it's there for those rare times when I do want to use it. What will happen to me/us when there is no tv but the desire to turn it on and go through the (five) channels? Will I feel lost? Will I feel a big void in my life? Will our children grow up deprived? (no, they won't. I know plenty of people who have terrific kids but don't have a tv and their kids seem to live just fine)

What say ye?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Job vs. Career

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. Obviously the economy has everyone concerned about their jobs, and working mothers have always struggled/juggled/questioned/dealt with the balancing act. I have always assumed that I would be a working mother, and I have pursued both a career and motherhood passionately. I am fortunate to have a job that I love, and I love coming home to a little munchkin who sometimes showers me with kisses, sometimes just keeps on playing with her toys.

This particular pregnancy has made me question a few things. I have been on disability leave from work for a little while, but recently my doctor released me to return to work. However, I am far along enough in my pregnancy where my doctor does not want me flying anymore. Flying is pretty necessary to my job in order to work at client sites, since we do not have much work that can be done locally. I managed to work locally after the first child was born and the practice was aggressively pursuing the Houston market in the quest for additional local work. Much to my surprise, HR rejected my request to return to work, citing my restriction against flying which prevents me from fulfilling my job responsibilities.

This has made me wonder how much longer I will be able to work at my current job. I still love it, and I would love to work there as long as possible, but perhaps this career path is not conducive to the family situation I am looking for?

And then the bigger question - do I want a job or a career? Does it matter at this point? Can I really reconcile all of my goals in life?

So I have been pondering that lately. Wondering what my next move should be, whether I should think in completely new directions or stay the course but find a more local company. This is a really huge deal for me since this is really the first time someone told me that I can't do something - I can't work because I can't fly? Are you kidding me? With a laptop and WiFi and a Blackberry, I can't work??

All I know is that I am still extremely lucky right now, and I know that my company is a family-friendly company and I hope to come to a mutually agreed upon conclusion to this question.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pre-Pesach purge

I have not yet begun cleaning or shopping for Pesach, but a thought occurred to me, and the thought alone made me feel productive. :-)

Since there is a lot of cleaning to do before Pesach arrives, perhaps this is a good time to go through one's things and purge. Particularly in the kitchen area since that is the area that receives the most attention. As one goes through the cabinets, consider whether an item is worthwhile to keep. A wedding gift never used? Purge. Something you bought that you thought you'd use but haven't yet? If it's been over a year, purge. If you totally forgot about an item, that's a good indication that you don't need it - purge. Or perhaps there is a better place to store the seldom-used item. But the whole point is to simply get rid of stuff - whether by donating it, giving away to friends, or throwing it away (my least favorite option, especially if it's usable or recyclable).

The same is true for clothing, books, toys, linens, etc. Pretty much anything can be purged.

I'm a fan of a clutter-less home. I like more "white space" in my life; I don't need to fill my life up with useless things that don't do anything (I am soooo results-oriented). I also think that the less stuff there is, the less there is to clean, PERIOD. And that's a good thing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Productive Sunday

Nevermind the fact that we parents slept in until 9:15 am (yes, that is correct - I know it is shocking to the other parents out there - I have NO IDEA how our daughter let us sleep in that long but she did not make a SINGLE peep and she was in the crib the whole time!!) so we got a late start to our day; we managed to make this a VERY productive day. By productive, I am specifically referring to crossing off one thing from our to-do list that has been on that list for months now.

Not only did I make pancakes, not only did my husband attend a shul board meeting, and not only did our daughter take a nap (during which we perused the newspaper, actually spent time talking to each other, and picked up pizza for lunch), but we also went to IKEA and bought a bookcase.

IKEA is just bad news for us. I know that there are many who love that store, and I can see why, but for us, visiting IKEA is like one of the levels of Dante's hell. It is overwhelming, it is always crowded, it is like a giant maze, and while it holds great promise, when you see the products up close, you realize that many times they are very flimsy and then you don't want to buy them and then you wasted all that time driving all the way there, finding a parking space, finding that item, etc etc.

I got inspired by an article in Parents magazine and made a decision: we are going to buy a bookcase for our living room from IKEA, we know the quality ahead of time so we WILL NOT be disappointed, and this will solve our problems. There, the decision has been made. We checked the stock level at the store ahead of time (yes in stock!) and made a plan: we go in, we get it, we check out. Before the evening is up we assemble it and we rock on.

And we accomplished each little task. We went there, found a parking spot, found the item, checked out, sent the daughter to play with the grandparents, and we assembled it. Voila!! Done. It is a gratifying feeling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Post Purim

Purim came and went. With the help of several friends, I was able to create costumes for us that received great reviews from others. The theme was "A Pea in the Pod" (for obvious reasons) daughter went as Pea #1, my belly was Pea #2, I was the pod, and my husband was the farmer who harvests the peas. It worked out! I bought green t-shirts for me and the kiddo, bought fabric markers (another first!) and wrote the words Pea #1 and Pea #2 on the shirts, and then I bought green beans and hot-glued them onto our shirts (front and back). They didn't stick the whole night but that's alright. I bought green fabric (seasonal AND on sale!!) and "made" an overlay for my jeans skirt by wrapping the fabric around the skirt and then using safety pins to secure it (um, I don't sew). It stayed on the whole night! Can't say as much for the green beans that were on our shirts. My husband borrowed a plaid shirt, donned his cowboy hat (he's a Texas farmer) and dug his knees into dirt to give the jeans that farmer look. Overall, we made a cute family.

For mishloach manot, I got last minute inspiration, again with the help of friends, although I did have to ditch my plan of making hamantaschen because I ran out of time. I bought green boxes of apple juice, mini boxes of raisins, and then I boiled a frozen bag of peas and put some in ziploc baggies. I made labels with an image of two babies as peas in a pod, wrote a little message, and hoped that everyone would get the theme, especially once they saw our costume. I thought it was cute! Cute and cheap. Love it.

The Purim party at our shul last night was a blast, even though I overdid it and my back was sore last night. I'm alright now.

Now it's time for the Pesach craziness....

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Purim - letting it go

You would think that having been at home, not working, for the last almost 3 months, I would have thought of the most amazing Purim costumes and mishloach manot packages for this year, but you would be wrong. I have not thought of anything and I can't seem to make my brain cells work any more on this topic. I feel like they need to save the thinking for Pesach and impending new baby arrival, and cannot be spent on Purim planning. First I thought we'd do a theme for the mishloach manot, but then I couldn't come up with food items that fit the theme, and then I just had no clue. And I definitely can't come up with a costume (except for maybe the daughter's costume - I think she has one...) for me or the husband. It's pathetic!

So that's it. I have come to the conclusion, and am actually relieved, to have a low-key Purim this won't be memorable, it won't be show-stopping, it will be a lovely holiday on our way to Pesach. That's it. I've made peace with this.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Craft: Bat Mitzvah Memory Book

This week I made a Bat Mitzvah Memory Book for a young lady in the community whose Bat Mitzvah is this Shabbat. I got the idea from looking at my own Bat Mitzvah book, and it made me think that my book doesn't really reflect my personality, or capture my thoughts at the time, or anything like that. It was a book I insisted on buying from a Judaica store, but I don't know why I made my parents buy it because I remember not even being thrilled with it at the time. I wanted this young lady to have a place where she could capture this moment in a creative way, so I spent all week looking up information online, getting ideas for the content, and then crafting away. Behold, my very own Bat Mitzvah Memory Book.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A woman's work

I attended an event last night which showcased women entrepreneurs in the neighborhood, and I have to admit, I was very impressed. The women were all very creative with what they were selling and I was impressed with how the women, most of whom do not have typical 9-5 jobs in an office, determined to make money doing something they loved to do. It was actually rather inspiring and made me think of what I would do if I wasn't working in an office.

(Although the thing is that I actually love my job and I love the office environment - when I'm in the office because usually I would be at a client site - so I would definitely miss that if I were to exit that world.)

It was nice to see women being resourceful with their time and trying to provide something new and creative to the world. What the event also showed me was that these ladies' marketing reach was rather limited, given the attendance at the event and the fact that I had no idea all these little businesses were going on. I thought these ladies needed more exposure to the rest of the Jewish community - even competitors! - and that, these days, it's easy to do that.

Maybe I can organize something myself to promote all these and other hidden businesses in our community, because it's a shame that these talents aren't being recognized for what they are...

Challenge of the week - accomplished!

I would have been sorely disappointed if I would not have been able to achieve last week's challenge, but fortunately my instincts proved me right and my spending was reined in. Not only did I successfully complete last week's challenge, but I have money left over. Yay! For groceries, the key is buying inexpensive ingredients that can create gourmet meals (and knowing where to shop); for the other items, it's really just all about prioritizing and analyzing (as in, do I really need a new pair of shoes? New skirt? etc). And combing through my fridge and pantry to come up with new uses for what I already have and not letting it go to waste (a big money drain) (which would require me to eat fruits and vegetables, something I need to work on anyway). Keeping up maintenance so that I don't incur expensive repairs in the future. All good stuff.